Planned Job Cuts Plummet in March

ByJennifer Lawinski

Companies plan to givefewer workers the axe, as proposed job cuts fell in March to their lowest levelin 10 months, according to the latest job-cut report from global outplacementfirm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

U.S.-based employersannounced that 37,880 positions would be terminated during the month of March,27 percent fewer than the 51,728 job cuts announced in February. The number ofcuts is the lowest since May 2011, when 37,135 job cuts were announced.

For the quarter, however,job cuts are up over 2011. Through the first quarter of 2012, companiesannounced the termination of 143,094 employees, up 9.4 percent over the firstquarter of last year, when cuts came in at 130,749 jobs.

The highest number ofplanned cuts was in telecommunications, where 4,089 jobs were eliminated,nearly half of which came from wireless carrier T-Mobile, which isconsolidating call centers to save money. In addition, Verizon Wireless announcedin March that it would be cutting 750 call center workers, and Wells Fargo andQVC also also cut call center jobs.

The consumer productssector has seen the most job cuts in Q1 2012, with 18,438 layoffs, asignificant jump from the 4,571 cuts in the first three months of 2011.Transportation also saw a steep rise in the quarter, up more than 500 percentover 2011, rising from 2,547 to 17,051.

"Both consumerproducts and transportation saw fewer job cuts in March after experiencingheavy cuts in February,? said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray &Christmas, in a statement.  ?These arekey indicators of the economy’s health, so they will be closely monitored inthe coming months for more signs of distress. The hope is that the February surge in these sectors was not indicativeof a trend.?

In the public sector, jobcuts have fallen sharply year-over-year. In 2012, 5,750 government job cutswere announced, down 86 percent from 2011’s first-quarter number of 41,929.Whether this is a sign of public sector stabilization or a temporary respitefor government workers is unclear, according to Challenger.

"This may simply bethe eye of the storm for government workers; a lull in activity in an electionyear and a time when many state budgets are still being negotiated,"Challenger said.  ?The potential for asurge in government cuts is significant. Massive cuts in the U.S. Post Office are still being considered. 

?Last month, the U.S.Department of the Interior was asked to develop a plan that would eliminate5,000 workers by the end of fiscal year 2013. In Illinois, the governor hasproposed a budget that would result in 2,700 job cuts.  So, we definitely have not seen the end oflarge-scale government layoffs.?

Budget shortfalls arestill hitting local governments hard, he said, evidenced by a 192 percent risein education job cuts from February’s total of 1,275 to March’s 3,733. "Thesecuts are a strong indicator that more government cuts are on the horizon,"Challenger said.