U.S. planned layoffs fall; hiring picks up in July: Challenger

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The number of planned layoffs at U.S. companies dropped in July to its lowest since November while job-opening announcements notched up, a sign that businesses are confident that the economy will continue to expand, a report released Thursday showed.

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U.S. companies announced 28,307 planned job cuts in July, a 9 percent decline from 31,105 in June and the lowest since November, according to outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

Overall, July’s job cuts were down 37.6 percent from 45,346 a year earlier.

Meanwhile, employers made plans to hire 88,000 workers, the highest July total on record and the third-highest total of the year, according to the report.

“Maybe some of these hiring announcements are just some of the exuberance that comes late in an expansion,” Challenger, Gray & Christmas Chief Executive Officer John Challenger said in an interview. “But it may also be that some of the decision makers who decide whether to build a new plant or launch a new product or hire new people are becoming more comfortable that the recession is not imminent.”

Despite low unemployment, there is slack in the system, leaving ample opportunity for employers to pick up skilled workers, Challenger said.

The so-called U6 unemployment rate, which measures the share of discouraged, part-time or underemployed workers in the economy, is at 8.6 percent, higher than the unemployment rate of 4.3 percent. Inc AMZN.O and Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics supplier formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd 2317.TW led July's surge in hiring-plan announcements.

Amazon announced intentions to hire 50,000 workers at its recruitment fair, while Foxconn said it would build a factory in Wisconsin and add 3,000 jobs in the next three years.

Although the retail sector has been the hardest-hit this year, there are signs it is crawling back.

Through the first seven months of this year, retailers have said they would add 245,616 new positions, 44 percent of all new jobs announced in 2017.

Reporting by Kimberly Chin; Editing by Dan Burns and Lisa Von Ahn