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Planned layoffs plunge in August: Challenger

Job cuts announced by U.S.-based companies plummeted 61 percent in August after rising to a four-year high the previous month, according to a monthly report by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Employers announced 41,186 layoffs last month. While the tally ticked down on a month-to-month basis, the figure represented a 2.9 percent increase in job reductions from the same period last year. August marked the seventh month this year during which companies cut more jobs than they did a year ago.

At the current pace, the United States could see 650,000 layoffs this year, the highest since 2009, CEO John Challenger said Thursday.

Still, he called the August total "a good number."

"There's low pressure for layoffs in most sectors. Unemployment's low. Company's are more looking for workers," he told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

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The retail sector handed out the most pink slips. The layoffs were driven by the bankruptcy filing of supermarket chain A&P, which said it would close 100 stores and give notice to 8,500 employees.

Retailers have laid off 57,363 workers in 2015, falling behind only the energy industry—which has grappled with a collapsing commodity market—and the government, which announced massive military staffing reductions in July.

"What we're seeing is a lot of pressure in that consumer products sector," Challenger said. "Especially companies with old brands, we're seeing some real pressure, pricing pressure, in that sector, and that's leading the layoffs."

The industrial goods sector also planned cuts totaling nearly 8,000, largely due to pressure on energy prices.

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