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posted on 31 March 2016

March 2016 Job Cuts Fall But Q1 Up 31%. Heavy Layoffs in Energy and Retail.

from Challenger Gray and Christmas

Job cuts declined for the second consecutive month in March, as US-based employers announced plans to trim payrolls by 48,207 during the month.

The March total was 21.7 percent lower than the 61,599 job cuts in February. It was the lowest monthly total since December, when 23,622 were announced.

Despite last month's decline, the March figure was 31.7 percent higher than the same month a year ago (36,594), making it the fourth consecutive year-over-year increase.

Through the first quarter of 2016, employers announced 184,920 job cuts, up 31.8 percent from the 140,241 cuts tracked the first three months of 2015. The first quarter saw 75.9 percent more job cuts than in the final quarter of 2015, when 105,079 job cuts were recorded.

Of the 184,920 job cuts announced in the first quarter, 50,053, or 27 percent, were directly attributed to falling oil prices. That is slightly (5.0 percent) higher than a year ago, when oil-related job cuts totaled 47,610. While there were fewer oil-related job cuts a year ago, they represented a larger portion of total job cuts, accounting for 34 percent of first-quarter layoff announcements. Said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas:

Job cuts have slowed since surging in the first two months of the year, but the pace is still well above that of 2015. And, it is not just the energy sector that is seeing heavier job cuts. Layoff announcement have increased significantly in the retail sector and computer sector, as well. While it may be too early to sound the alarm bells, the upward trend outside of the energy sector is somewhat worrisome.

Indeed, first quarter job cuts were dominated by the energy sector, where employers announced 52,901 job cuts in the first three months of 2016. The three-month total is 39.9 percent higher compared to a year ago, when fewer than 37,811 energy cuts were reported.

However, the retail sector has also tallied significant gains in job cuts. To date, it has recorded the second highest number of job cuts, with 31,832, up 41 percent from the 22,502 announced in the first three months of 2015.

Meanwhile, the 17,002 job cuts in the computer sector are 148 percent higher than a year ago, when these firms announced 6,860 in the first quarter. Challenger concludes:

What these sectors share in common is that they are all going through transformational changes. We, as a nation, and really as a global community, are changing the way we produce and consume energy. We are also changing the way we buy goods and services. Technology is in a constant state of change, and, currently, we are shifting away from computing at our desks to computing on our phones and tablets.

These changes are necessary and inevitable, but they come with a cost in the form of job loss. However, while jobs are being lost in some areas, they are being created in others, including renewable energy, online retailing, and mobile computing.


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