Companies announced plans to cut 32,346 jobs in September, a decline of 27 percent from last year, a private survey reported Thursday.
September's total represents a 4.4 percent decline in layoff announcements from August, outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas said.
"Employers are holding on to their existing workforces while many positions requiring skilled labor go unfilled," CEO John Challenger said in a statement.
The firm said the year-to-date figure for the third quarter — 94,478 — was the lowest since 1996, when 91,784 cuts were announced.
Retailers have announced the most cuts this year — 71,057. That's nearly 37 percent higher than the period last year.
The Challenger report comes a day before the Labor Department releases its September jobs data. On Wednesday, ADP and Moody's Analytics said U.S. companies hired 135,000 employees in September.