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First Cut: Challenger November layoff intentions mild for this time of year, hiring intentions remain healthy

The Challenger report on layoff intentions for November declined 11.3% to 44,569 from 50,275 in October and was down 16.0% from the 53,073 in the year-ago month. In the first 11 months of 2019, the number of layoffs announced totaled 559,713, up from the 494,775 in the same period a year ago. Although more job cuts have been announced in 2019, these are still relatively low levels by historical standards. Moreover, businesses tend to increase the number of layoffs at year-end as they adjust for the coming year. It looks like many businesses have already taken steps to reduce their workforces when signs of an economic slowdown were more prevalent. At the present time, firms are reluctant to lose skilled employees at a time when the tight labor market means they might have trouble replacing them later.

 

Among the reasons for layoffs, the largest share was in closing (12,067, or 27.1% of the total) as the contraction in the brick-and-mortar retail sector is ongoing. Restructuring (10,962, or 25.0% of the total) accounted for the second largest share followed by cost-cutting (5,231, or 11.7% of the total). Although it is a small portion of layoff reasons, firms are reporting more job cuts related to trade and tariffs. Trade difficulties were mentioned (494) and tariffs (250).

Hiring intentions totaled 19,063 in November and were up 23.6% from the 15,422 in November 2018. The month-over-month comparison isn’t particularly useful coming off months in which intentions for retail and transportation were massive due to the holiday shopping season. Excluding retail, intentions were 18,438 in November, only slightly lower than the 19,535 in October and strong for nearing year-end when layoff activity is generally higher.

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