NEW YORK (Reuters) - The number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms surged in January to its highest level in four months as retailers and financial firms cut jobs, a report on Thursday showed.
Employers announced 53,486 planned job cuts last month, up 28 percent from 41,785 in December, according to the report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.
January's job cuts were also up from the same time a year ago, gaining 38.9 percent from the 38,519 layoffs announced in January 2011.
A surge in job cuts at the start of the year is not unusual, the report said. January is historically the heaviest month of cuts, averaging 101,084 layoffs between 1993 and 2001.
Retail companies cut 12,426 jobs, the largest amount for the sector in two years. The layoffs were due to store closings and other cost-cutting measures, rather than an exit of seasonal workers, which are typically not announced cuts.
Financial firms trimmed 7,611 jobs, while the government sector saw only a relatively small amount of cuts at 3,021.
The rise in job cuts comes a day before the key U.S. jobs report, which is forecast to show employment growth slowed last month.
Reporting by Leah Schnurr