Nationwide Layoffs Modest in May

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Layoffs were moderate nationwide in May, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, which is known for tracking the trend. There were 31,517 layoffs this month. That number is down from 36,081 in April. One month does not make a trend, but it is still part of a national surge in jobs, which has sent joblessness to a rate of 3.9%.

John Challenger, the chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said: “On average, job cuts are at their lowest in May and June. Companies typically make their staffing moves at the beginning of the year or in the fourth quarter.”

The trend so far this year is not as promising:

So far this year, employers have announced 207,977 job cuts, 6.2 percent more than the 195,895 announced through the first five months of 2017.

Retail leads all sectors in job cuts this year, with 69,316, 4,946 of which occurred in May. Retailers have announced 24 percent more cuts than through the same period last year, when 55,910 cuts were announced. So far this year, Challenger has tracked 2,565 store closures.

Health Care/Products companies announced the second highest number of job cuts in May, with 4,003, for a total of 21,453 this year. Companies in the Services sector announced 19,363 cuts, with 4,698 in May.

No one should be surprised by the retail number as the brick-and-mortar segment of retail continues to fall apart and traditional retailers continue to close stores. Certainly, earnings from some of the largest retailers were bleak last quarter.

As late spring and summer progress, the Challenger number should be expected to range between 30,000 and 40,000, with retail layoffs continuing to lead the way. If the numbers go higher, there is good reason to worry that the jobs market may have turned for the worse.