Q1 Job Cuts Up 44% Year Over Year; March Up 71% Month Over Month

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The outplacement firm of Challenger, Gray & Christmas on Thursday released its job-cuts report for March and the news is not good. A total of 60,357 job cuts were announced last month, an increase of 71% month over month and the highest monthly total since April 2016.

For the first three months of the year, employers have slashed 140,379 jobs, compared to a total of 126,201 in the first three months of last year, an increase of more than 11%. The three-month total through March is 44% more compared to the final three months of 2017.

Job losses are highest in the retail sector, where 56,526 jobs have been cut so far in 2018. Challenger Gray said it has tracked 1,730 announced retail store closures in the first quarter of 2018. A total of 9,241 stores closed in 2017.

John Challenger, the outplacement firm’s CEO, said:

The growth and job creation we’ve seen over the last few months may be coming to an end. As wages grow and the labor market tightens, companies are going to switch to a no-risk strategy and potentially begin contracting.

To back up that point, the firm reported that the number of hiring announcements fell in March. Companies announced plans last month to hire 14,525 new employees, bringing the total of new jobs announced to 196,340, almost a third lower than the 289,272 announced plans to add employees in the first quarter of last year.

In addition to the retail sector, other industries with many more year-over-year first-quarter cuts include consumer products (11,778 versus 651 last year), health care products (12,491 versus 8,116) and services (10,564 versus 6,677).

Industries reporting many fewer year-over-year first-quarter cuts include computer (1,978 versus 4,894 last year), energy (2,205 versus 7,880) and telecom (5,921 versus 9,782).

For the year to date, New Jersey (36,305), Texas (13,685) and California (12,809) have lost the most jobs.

The top three reasons given for the first-quarter job cuts are the business is closing (47,311 jobs lost), restructuring (38,622) or cutting costs (15,707). Bankruptcy filings have cost 30,060 jobs so far this year.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Labor is expected to report that U.S. employers added 175,000 jobs in March. ADP reported Wednesday that jobs grew by 241,000 last month.