Although U.S. layoff announcements declined 38 percent in May from the year-earlier month, the toll for the first five months of 1996 climbed 34 percent to 230,250 from the same period a year ago, according to a report by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.
Employers announced 30,845 layoffs for May, slightly ahead of April's toll of 30,810 but a drop from 58,530 layoffs in May 1995. This May's job cuts are the lowest May total since 1993, when companies announced 14,086 job cuts, said Challenger, a Chicago-based outplacement firm.Significantly, job-cut announcements this year are running 6.5 percent ahead of 1993, the largest downsizing year of the decade. There were 216,209 layoff announcements in the first five months of 1993, the year in which the total reached 615,186.
Fueled by Conagra Inc.'s plans to close plants and eliminate 6,500 jobs, the food sector was the hardest hit in May with 8,314 layoffs, a nearly fivefold increase over April when only 1,701 jobs were lost.
After remaining steady for most of 1996, downsizing in the health-care sector jumped to 3,397 announced cuts from 1,857 reported cuts in April.
The retail sector, after seeing only 454 job cuts in April, was hit with 3,995 layoffs in May. Many stores found that spring business did not bounce back from last winter's severe weather and weak holiday sales.