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Layoffs by U.S.-based companies accelerated in April, sending year-to-date job cuts to the highest level since 2009, a private study reported Thursday.
Domestic companies announced plans to let go 65,141 workers last month, a 35 percent increase from March, according to the report by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas .
In the first four months of the year, employers said they would hand out 250,061 pink slips. That is the highest total for the January-to-April period since 2009.
"We continue to see large scale layoffs in the energy sector, where low oil prices are driving down profits. However, we are also seeing heavy downsizing activity in other areas, such as computers and retail, where changing consumer trends are creating a lot of volatility," Challenger CEO John A. Challenger said in a statement.
The energy sector was once again the biggest driver of downsizing among U.S.-based companies. Employers in the sector said last month they would send 19,759 workers packing. They have laid off 72,660 employees this year — almost double the 2016 total of the next largest job-cutting sector, retail.
In the computer industry, the 12,000 layoffs announced by Intel accounted for the lion's share of the sector's roughly 17,000 payroll reductions.
Challenger cautioned that it is not unusual to see job cuts rise while the economy is improving. He noted layoffs were elevated near the height of the dotcom bubble in the late '90s.
"Like IBM and Intel, companies are shifting strategies that require them to cut in some places while adding in others," he said.
The retail sector signaled it would let go another 5,145 workers in April.
The Challenger report comes a day before the Labor Department releases its April jobs data. On Wednesday, ADP and Moody's Analytics said U.S. companies hired 156,000 employees in March.