Planned layoffs up slightly in May: Challenger

NEW YORK Wed Jun 1, 2011 7:34am EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms rose modestly in May with the government and non-profit sectors making up a large portion of the cuts, a report on Wednesday showed.

Employers announced 37,135 planned job cuts last month, up 1.8 percent from 36,490 in April, according to a report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

May's job cuts were down from the same time a year ago, falling 4.3 percent from the 38,810 job cuts announced in May 2010. For 2011 so far, employers have announced 204,374 cuts, down 20.9 percent from the first five months of 2010.

"Despite several signs of weakness in the recovery, the continued slow pace of downsizing outside of the government sector suggests that employers do not see these as long-term problems," John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in a statement.

"It is unlikely that we will see a sudden resurgence in corporate downsizing in the months ahead unless there is a major shock to the economy," he added.

Cuts in the government and non-profit areas totaled 14,755 and accounted for nearly 40 percent of May's announced layoffs. Even so, the number of cuts was down 11.6 percent from last May.

The relatively stable number of job cuts comes ahead of the U.S. Labor Department's key jobs report on Friday, which is forecast to show the pace of job creation slowed last month. The economy is expected to gain 180,000 jobs.

Hiring plans fell to 10,248 from 59,648 in April, which had been boosted by McDonald's (MCD.N) bid to hire 50,000 workers in one day.

(Reporting by Leah Schnurr, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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