Layoffs hit 3-year high in April as energy cuts surge: Challenger

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Layoffs surged in April to the highest level in three years as energy sector employers announced a fresh wave of job cuts.

U.S.-based companies said they would let go 61,582 workers last month, the most since May 2012, according to a report by global outsourcing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The oil price rout continued to account for the bulk of workforce reductions. Challenger, Gray & Christmas attributed 20,675 to the effect of crude prices, with most of the layoffs occurring within the energy sector.

In April, oilfield services firm Schlumberger announced it would lay off 11,000 additional employees, having already slashed 9,000 positions.

Employers have cut 201,796 positions this year, a 25 percent increase from the same period last year, when companies handed out 161,639 pink slips.

Retailers ranked second among job-cutters this year with 26,096 layoffs. Consumer products multinational Procter & Gamble pushed the 4-month total higher in April by announcing it would let go as many as 6,000 workers over the next two years.

Retail sales have been lackluster, suggesting that Americans are not spending gas savings in the broader economy, said John Challenger, CEO at Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

"We could be witnessing the after-effect of the severe and protracted recession. Much like the generation that lived through the Great Depression, those who scraped by during the recession are being extra careful with their money," noted Challenger.