U.S. job cuts at lowest since July 2018 as labor market holds up

U.S. JOB CUTS totaled 32,843 in December, a 25% decline year over year. / BLOOMBERG NEWS FILE PHOTO/JEFF KOWALSKY
U.S. JOB CUTS totaled 32,843 in December, a 25% decline year over year. / BLOOMBERG NEWS FILE PHOTO/JEFF KOWALSKY

WASHINGTON – United States employers last month announced the fewest job cuts since July 2018 as the labor market remained tight, though 2019 still turned out to be one of the decade’s worst years for firings.

Job cuts totaled 32,843 in December, down 26% from November and 25% lower than a year earlier, according to a report Thursday from staffing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

“Confidence was high heading into the last month of the year,” Andrew Challenger, vice president of the Chicago-based firm, said in a statement. “With some resolutions occurring in the trade war and strong consumer spending in the fourth quarter, companies appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach as we head into 2020.”

The upbeat note caps a year in which the labor market held up despite uncertainty from the trade war and related faltering in the manufacturing sector. The unemployment rate in December probably remained at a half-century low of 3.5%, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg before the final 2019 jobs report is issued on Jan. 10.

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For the full year, employers announced plans to cut 592,556 jobs, up 10% from 2018 and the highest total since 2015, according to the report. Last year was the decade’s third-highest for job cut announcements, trailing about 600,000 each in 2011 and 2015.

Jeff Kearns is a reporter for Bloomberg News.

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