U.S. Employers Announce Fewer Layoffs In September

By Agence France-Presse U.S. firms announced fewer layoffs in September, an industry survey showed Oct. 1, offering a glimmer of hope for the stubbornly weak labor market. Employers announced 75,506 job cuts in September, down 4.3% from August, according to a survey by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas. It was the second consecutive monthly decline in layoffs and the lowest figure since May. But the number of layoffs was still up 9.2% from September 2002. "Frankly, the September decline was somewhat surprising, considering that the last four months of the year historically have been the heaviest as employers finalize budgets and business plans for the coming year," said the outplacement firm's chief executive, John Challenger. "It is probably too early to break out the champagne, however. After all, we saw a relatively low figure last September, and employers went on to announce more than 426,000 job cuts in the last three months of the year." Workers in the industrial goods industry were hardest hit, with 19,224 layoffs announced, followed by those in the computer industry with 7,172 layoffs and the automotive sector with 5,847. The scarcity of jobs, even as the economy appears to be picking up speed, threatens to be a political liability with presidential elections scheduled in November 2004. In August, U.S. employers axed 93,000 jobs, taking seven months of uninterrupted losses to 595,000 jobs. The unemployment rate was 6.1% in the month. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2003

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