Fewest Job Cuts Announced Last Year Since 1997, Challenger Says

WASHINGTON (Los Angeles Times/TNS) -

Planned job cuts by U.S. businesses declined in December for the second straight month, helping 2014 post the fewest announced layoffs in 17 years, career-counseling firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said Thursday.

“Layoffs aren’t simply at pre-recession levels, they are at pre-2001-recession levels,” said John A. Challenger, the firm’s chief executive.

“This bodes well for job seekers, who will not only find more employment opportunities in 2015, but will enjoy increased job security once they are in those new positions,” he said.

U.S. firms announced 32,640 layoffs in December, down 9.2 percent from the previous month, Challenger said.

For the year, there were 483,171 planned job cuts, down 5 percent from last year. That was the fewest since 1997, according to Challenger.

The figures are consistent with accelerating job growth.

The U.S. economy added more than 200,000 net new jobs for 10 straight months beginning in February, including a robust 321,000 in November.

Economists forecast the December figure, to be released Friday by the Labor Department, will be 245,000.

Initial-jobless-claim figures Thursday also were in line with a strong labor market.

About 294,000 people filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week, down 4,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department said.

The less-volatile four-week average fell slightly to 290,500, a level consistent with a healthy labor market.