Challenger Report: September Cuts Rise 14%, Lowest Quarterly Total Since Q2 1997; 1.7K+ Cuts Due to Vaccine Refusal

Published October 7, 2021

Job cuts announced by U.S.-based employers rose 14% in September to 17,895 from the 24-year low of 15,723 cuts announced in August, according to a report released Thursday from global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

September’s total is 85% lower than the same month last year, when 118,804 cuts were announced. Employers announced 52,560 job cuts in the third quarter, the lowest quarterly total since the second quarter of 1997, when 51,309 cuts were recorded.

Third quarter cuts are 23% lower than the 67,975 cuts announced in the previous quarter, and  89% lower than the 497,215 announced in the same quarter last year.

Month by month employee number cuts for September 2021 in the United States,

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©

So far this year, employers have announced plans to cut 265,221 jobs from their payrolls, down 87% from the 2,082,262 jobs eliminated through the same period last year. It is the lowest January-September total on record. The second lowest occurred in 1997, when 281,496 cuts were tracked in the first nine months of the year.

Challenger Analysis

“Companies are in hiring and retention mode, and job seekers have a lot of power to make demands at the moment,” said Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“We know there are millions of open positions, but many employers are having trouble keeping up with their applicants, taking too long to reach out, not making offers fast enough, or losing out to more attractive offers,” he added.


Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. © | Digital Artist, Nicole Lobdell (Piktochart)

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©

Like in August, cuts were led by companies in the Health Care/Products sector in September, which announced 2,673 cuts. This industry includes hospitals and other health care facilities, as well as health care products manufacturers. So far this year, this industry has announced 18,936, 66% lower than the 55,462 cuts announced through the same period in 2020.

“Health Care is facing an enormous talent shortage, as burned out medical and support staff walk away from stressed facilities and wages that may feel inadequate for the amount of work. Other systems are facing walk-outs or firings of unvaccinated staff, further broadening the worker shortage,” said Challenger.

In fact, since the Pfizer vaccine received full-FDA approval and many health care facilities in particular implemented vaccine mandates, companies have announced plans to cut 1,772 workers who refuse vaccination, 1,452 of whom work in Health Care facilities.

“In some cases, a lack of staff leads to the closing of entire units causing involuntary job loss,” said Challenger.

Leading industries in September Job Cut Announcements

Industrial Goods Manufacturers announced the second-most cuts in September with 2,328 and Warehousing followed with 1,936, both industries plagued by ongoing supply chain issues. The Services sector announced 1,679 job cuts in September, while Technology companies announced 1,546.

Top Industry reasons for employee cuts

Store, unit, or plant closings were cited for the most cuts this year with 53,571, followed by market conditions, which accounted for 48,148. 

“These numbers are still incredibly low. Employers are devising ways to meet the needs of their employees, whether by addressing burnout and the desire for flexibility, raising wages, offering support for child and family care issues, or being more deliberate in their workers’ career development plans. They want to retain, not cut,” said Challenger.

U.S. Hiring Announcements Last Month

“While job cuts are at record lows, hiring announcements exploded in September, a month when many big box retailers, shipping, and warehousing companies announce seasonal hiring plans. This year, many hiring announcements are for permanent workers rather than seasonal ones,” said Challenger.

Amid a flurry of hiring plans, Amazon announced plans to hire 125,000 workers in logistics and warehousing, on top of 40,000 announced earlier last month. Though these positions will support the holiday season, they are expected to be permanent. Macy’s announced it would hire roughly 76,000 for the holidays, but 48,000 would be seasonal and the rest would be permanent. Meanwhile, though Target trimmed its holiday hiring number, it plans to give more hours and increased wages to existing staff. 

Job Loss in the News and Media Industry

Challenger continues to follow losses in the News industry, which is tracked as a subset of Media cuts. Through September, Newsrooms have announced 1,027 job cuts, with 0 occurring last month. News cuts are down 93% from the 15,202 announced through September last year. 

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Contact Colleen Madden Blumenfeld for more data or to set up an interview with SVP Andy Challenger.

Contact Challenger for Media Inquiries

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