Challenger Report: Layoff Announcements Soared 47 Percent in January

Thursday, 06 Feb 2014 11:03 AM

By Dan Weil

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Corporate layoff announcements surged 47 percent in January to 45,107 from 30,623 in December, according outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

December's total was the lowest since June 2000. The January figure is up 12 percent from a year earlier.

The biggest job cut announcements last month came in the retail sector, thanks to poor earnings, Challenger reports. A total of 11,394 retail job reductions were announced last month, up 71 percent from January 2013 and the highest total since March 2013.

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Among the companies shedding workers are Macy's, Sam's Club, J.C. Penney, Sears, Best Buy and Target.

"Holiday sales gains were relatively weak, and many retailers achieved the gains by slashing prices on their products, which adversely impacted their year-end earnings," Challenger CEO John Challenger, said in a statement. "The post-holiday job-letting in the sector was inevitable."

It's not just suffering industries that are laying off workers. The computer sector was No. 2 in layoff announcements last month, with 6,456, up 146 percent from a year earlier.

"Perhaps the most notable cuts in the tech sector came from Intel and EMC," Challenger said. "In both cases, the cuts were due to shifts in business strategies."

Meanwhile, economists say that the inclement weather experienced by much of the nation in recent weeks makes it more difficult to predict Friday's employment report for January.

"It's hard to get a read on what's happening," UBS economist Drew Matus told USA Today.

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg forecast a median 188,000 payroll increase for last month. Payrolls rose a paltry 74,000 in December.

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