U.S. planned layoffs in Aug hit 10-year low

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms fell 17 percent in August from the prior month and hit the lowest level in 10 years, a report on Wednesday showed.

Employers announced 34,768 planned job cuts last month, down from 41,676 in July, outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. said.

It was the first month-on-month decline since April, when planned job losses had hit a seven-year low, and the lowest level since June 2000.

Although unemployment remains high, at 9.5 percent in July, job security appears to be strong, the report said.

“To put this in perspective, job cuts never fell to these levels following the 2001 recession, not even when the economy was reaping the rewards of the housing boom,” John Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in a statement.

“You have to go all the way back to the expansion of the late 1990s and early 2000 to find a similar pace of downsizing,” he said.

Overall, employers have announced 374,121 job cuts since the start of 2010, down from the 1,020,504 layoffs announced in the first eight months of 2009.

The August total is down 55 percent from a year earlier, when 76,456 job cuts were announced.

The industrial goods sector announced the biggest job cuts in August, with 6,236 planned layoffs. The government and non-profit sector ranked second in job reductions in August, with 5,509 announced job cuts, though it ranks as the biggest job cutter for the year-to-date.

Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Leslie Adler