Layoffs announced by U.S.-based employers fell in July to the lowest monthly total since November 2016 but a downturn could be on the horizon, according to a new report.
Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said employers announced 28,307 job cuts last month, 18% fewer than in June and 37.6% fewer than in July 2016. It was the lowest monthly total since November 2016, when 26,936 cuts were announced.
Planned layoffs totaled 255,307 so far this year, down 28.9% from the 359,100 cuts announced through the first seven months of 2016.
“Job cuts have slowed significantly as we reach mid-year. This month’s total was the lowest July total since 23,238 cuts were recorded in July 1995,” John Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in a news release.
On the other side of the coin, hiring is up, with employers announcing plans to hire 88,000 workers last month, the third-highest hiring month of the year and highest July total on record.
“Maybe some of these hiring announcements are just some of the exuberance that comes late in an expansion,” Challenger told Reuters. “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.”
Challenger also warned, however, that “While we have yet to see the large-scale layoffs of previous years, especially as oil and tech rebound, the specter of a downturn is on the horizon and could spell massive cuts as we head into the fourth quarter and into next year.”
Retail continued to lead all sectors this year with 63,989 announced cuts, 3,862 in July. Retail job cuts are 46.7% higher this year than through the same point last year.
“While retailers are cutting the most jobs this year, those companies are also announcing the most hiring,” Challenger noted, adding that the new jobs could be going to places like fulfillment and distribution centers “as well as to workers with the tech skills necessary to interact with and manage the automation that’s revolutionizing the industry.”