US employers announce 45,934 job cuts in January, Challenger report shows

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Employers in the United States announced 45,934 payroll cuts for the month of January, amid a wave of corporate downsizing that hit the retail sector the hardest, according to a monthly report released on Thursday by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Total pink slips were up 37 percent from December 2016, when total layoffs came to 33,627. January's total was down 39 percent year over year, however, with January 2016 seeing 75,411 cuts.

The retail sector dominated job cutting plans, as the sector continues to fall under pressure to shift to online. Macy's led the retail sector in layoffs by a wide margin, announcing plans to shut down 68 stores and slash its payrolls by 10,000 workers.

"Overall, it was a solid holiday shopping season, but several retailers, including Macy's were unable to capitalize on stronger consumer confidence and spending," John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in the report.

"A January surge in retail hiring has become the standard. Most retailers ramp up hiring in the final three months of the year to handle the holiday rush. However, as consumers increasingly go online to shop, retailers are not only dismissing temporary seasonal workers, but also increasingly closing stores and laying off permanent staff," he continued.

In total, the retail sector announced 22,491 cuts for the month of January, nearly 50 percent of all the cuts for the month.

Both the computer industry and the energy sector reported significantly fewer cuts year over year. The computer space, which cut 11,003 jobs in January 2016, announced it would shed only 2,211 jobs in January 2017, an 80 percent decline.

Challenger's CEO said the tech industry would not be the leader in job-cutting for this year, but mentioned it may struggle from labor shortages if President Donald Trump's administration tightens borders and immigration legislation.

The energy sector reported 1,853 planned layoffs. That total was down 91 percent year over year – for January 2016, the energy industry announced 20,103 cuts.

"Oil prices were already starting to rebound in the last half of 2016. Now, with an administration that is expected to be very friendly to the oil, gas, and mining industries, many are forecasting a swift and sustained turnaround for these firms in 2017," Challenger said in the report.