(Reuters) - U.S. companies have announced 633 layoffs related to the coronavirus outbreak so far, global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas said on Thursday, providing the first tally of American job losses from what has mushroomed into a global pandemic.
“We are indeed seeing job cuts from companies that are grappling with Supply Shock. The Port of Los Angeles cut 145 drivers after shipments from China stalled, and a toy maker cut 18 jobs due to a work stoppage in China,” said Andrew Challenger, senior vice president of the firm, which produces a widely followed monthly measure of layoff announcements.
The entertainment and leisure sector is the most affected so far, Challenger said, with 300 job cuts largely resulting from event cancellations. Another 70 came from the energy sector and appeared tied to the steep drop in oil prices after Saudi Arabia announced a major production increase.
Challenger’s tally was the first firm evidence that the outbreak is starting to affect the U.S. job market, which came into this crisis in historically strong shape, with the unemployment rate at a 50-year low of 3.5%.
Weekly government data on new claims for unemployment benefits out earlier on Thursday showed no impact from coronavirus, but Challenger and others expect layoffs to soon become more widespread.[nL1N2B4217]
“These will not be the last job cuts we see from this outbreak,” Challenger said.
Reporting By Dan Burns, Editing by Franklin Paul and Steve Orlofsky