The number of CEOs leaving their posts in January reached the highest monthly level since May 2010 as companies seek leaders who can drive growth , according to a monthly CEO turnover report released Feb. 8 by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
The report tracked 123 CEO departures in January, a 28% increase from the year-ago month. The total was two short of the May 2010 peak of 125.
The number of CEO exits last month was 48% higher than December when 83 exits were recorded.
The health care sector led with 25 CEOs leaving their posts, up from nine a year ago. The health care sector includes hospitals and other health care systems as well as manufacturers involved in health care products such as medical devices.
The computer industry experienced 10 CEO departures compared with seven in January 2011. Pharmaceutical industry saw nine company leaders leave, up from four last January.
Five energy sector chief executives left their posts in January compared with three last year.
The electronics industry was one of the few manufacturing sectors that realized a decline in CEO departures with five leaving in January, down from eight last year.
Turnover was slower in 2011 as companies focused on cost-cutting measures. But firms may be seeking new leadership as they explore growth opportunities, said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
"2011 saw relatively mild CEO turnover as companies tried to determine how best to maneuver the economic climate," Challenger said. "Companies were focused on cutting costs and doing more with less. Now, as jobs begin to trickle back and other factors signal economic growth, companies may try to find leaders who are able to drive expansion."
Of the 123 departures announced last month, 39 were resignations, according to Challenger. Retirements accounted for 32 CEO exits.
Another 25 stepped down into other roles within the leadership structure, usually as the chairman.
Government, Nonprofit Sector Leads February CEO Turnover Rate
CEO Departures Climb in December
Steve Jobs Tops List of CEO Departures in August