US layoffs fall 14% to 50,504 in Oct: Challenger

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U.S.-based employers dialed back layoffs in October from the previous month, but the number of job cuts attributable to low oil prices ticked back up to a six-month high, global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported Thursday.

October payroll reductions fell 14 percent from September to 50,504, and were down 1.3 percent from the year-ago period.

More than one-quarter of announced layoffs — 13,671 positions — were blamed on falling oil prices. U.S. crude futures fell to a 6½-year low below $38 at the end of August and have since recovered to about $45, but still 40 percent below the price at this time last year.

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However, Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John Challenger said in a statement it was not time to be too concerned.

"While falling oil prices are impacting the bottom lines of companies in the energy and industrial goods sectors, they are helping many other employers, such as those in transportation and plastics manufacturing," he said.

Pink slips in the energy patch accounted for the highest total layoffs by sector. Energy firms announced 17,344 layoffs, marking a resurgence in cuts after five months of moderate payroll reduction in the space.

Challenger noted that employers are heading into a period that has historically seen heavy reductions even in strong economic periods. But the past is no guarantee for future performance, he warned.

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"We could see an increase in layoffs, but we are just as likely to see an increase in hiring, as companies find themselves shorthanded and unable to meet demand," Challenger said.

Payroll reductions for 2015 totaled 543,935 in the year through October, 13 percent higher than the full-year total for 2014.