Job cuts announced by U.S.-based employers fell 4.4 percent, from 33,825 in August to 32,346 in September. Last month’s total was 27 percent lower than the 44,324 job cuts announced in the same month last year, according to a report released Thursday by global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

September job cuts bring the third quarter total to 94,478, 6.2 percent lower than the 100,799 cuts in the second quarter of this year, and 22.5 percent lower than the 121,858 cuts announced in the third quarter of last year. The quarterly total is the lowest it’s been since the fourth quarter last year, when 91,303 cuts were announced. This quarter marked the lowest third quarter total since 91,784 job cuts were announced in the third quarter of 1996.

So far this year, employers in the U.S. have announced 321,478 job cuts, 26.2 percent lower than the 435,612 cuts recorded through September last year.

“Job cuts have remained low since the second half of last year. As companies grapple with potential deregulation and changes to health care costs in a tight labor market, employers are holding on to their existing workforces while many positions requiring skilled labor go unfilled,” said John Challenger, Chief Executive Officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Retail leads in announced job cuts, with 71,057 so far this year, 3,461 of which occurred in September. This is a 36.8 percent increase from the previous year, when 51,939 cuts were recorded. While retail leads in announced job cuts, the sector also leads in hiring announcements. Through September, retailers planned to add over 500,000 new jobs, both seasonal and permanent.

Meanwhile, companies in the service sector have announced 24,977 job cuts so far this year, 193 percent more than the 8,518 job cuts announced in the same period last year. Health care companies came in third for the highest number of announced job cuts in 2017, with 24,761, 42 percent higher than the 14,344 job cuts announced through the third quarter of 2016.
“The fourth quarter is typically when we see the highest number of job cuts, as companies determine their needs for the next fiscal year,” said Challenger.

“With cuts down from last year in most industries, people should remain optimistic about job prospects,” added Challenger.

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