U.S.-based companies announced 157 chief executive officer changes to start the year, the highest monthly total on record, according to a report released Wednesday from global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

January’s total was 21.7 percent higher than the 129 CEO exits announced in December and 18.9 percent higher than the 132 CEOs who left their posts in January of last year. It is the highest monthly total since Challenger began tracking in 2002.

“The last two quarters have seen record-setting totals for CEO turnover. Companies are responding to the strong, but uncertain, economic conditions by engaging new leadership who can both set companies on a path for growth while also gearing up for a potential downturn,” said Andrew Challenger, Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

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