Layoffs across the United States slowed for a second straight month in March but the pace of job cuts so far this year is still well ahead of 2015, according to a new report.
The global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas said U.S.-based employers announced plans in March to trim payrolls by 48,207, a figure that is 21.7% lower than the job cuts in February and is the lowest monthly total since December.
But the March layoffs were 31.7% higher than the same month a year ago and represented the fourth consecutive year-over-year increase. In the first quarter of 2015, there were 184,920 layoffs, compared with 140, 214 in the year-ago period.
“Job cuts have slowed … but the pace is still well above that of 2015,” John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in a news release.
First-quarter job cuts were dominated by the energy sector, where employers announced 52,901 job cuts, a 39.9% increase on a year ago. The slump in oil prices accounted for 27% of the cuts.
But the retail and computer sectors also showed significant gains in layoffs. Retail employers announced the second highest number of job cuts, with 31,832, up 41% from the the first three months of 2015, while the 17,002 job cuts in the computer sector were 148% higher than a year ago.
“While it may be too early to sound the alarm bells, the upward trend outside of the energy sector is somewhat worrisome,” Challenger said, noting that energy, retail and computers are all going through “transformational change.”
“We, as a nation, and really as a global community, are changing the way we produce and consume energy,” he explained. “We are also changing the way we buy goods and services … 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,” Challenger said.