Employers' monthly layoff plans drop to 36K: Challenger

The pace of job cuts in the United States slowed significantly in March following two consecutive months of downsizing in excess of 50,000 positions, outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported Thursday.

U.S. employers announced 36,594 layoffs last month, down 27.6 percent from February, but up 6.4 percent from March 2014.

"What we're seeing is slightly higher cuts this year. January, February are often heavier months, and so now as we start to move into the spring, summer, we'll probably see the cuts draw back," John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

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Industrial goods manufacturers led reductions in March with 9,383 cuts.

While the energy patch dominated downsizing in the first quarter, the sector saw a 92 percent reduction in layoffs in March. Employers let go just 1,279 employees, compared with more than 16,000 in February.

The labor market is healthy and layoffs outside the energy industry are largely based on employers' individual situations, Challenger said, pointing to Target, which accounted for the bulk of the 6,640 retail sector cuts announced in March.

The retailer announced last month it would cut several thousand jobs during the next two years as part of a $2 billion cost-saving plan.

"The most iconic job cut of the month was Target, a retailer hit with a data breach, just competing in a new market, felt like it was too top heavy, needed to be more nimble," he said. "So we're not seeing job cuts that come right now from companies that are just doing poorly."