U.S. employers are slashing jobs at the fastest pace since 2009, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
Since the beginning of the year, employers have cut more than 250,000 jobs, up 24 percent from the same period last year.
The rate of downsizing sped up in April, with companies announcing 65,141 layoffs. That’s a 35 percent jump from March and 5 percent increase from the same period last year.
Many of the recent job losses are related to the low price of oil. The energy industry continues to be responsible for the highest number of cuts, with 72,660 year-to-date. In the same period last year, the industry slashed 57,556 jobs.
The retail industry, struggling to lure shoppers, accounted for the second highest number of layoffs, with 36,977 so far this year. Computers, industrial goods and entertainment and leisure rounded out the top five industries cutting employees. These industries are downsizing primarily because of volatility created by changing consumer trends.
The labor market overall has grown for 74 straight months, adding 14.6 million jobs over that time. The Labor Department reported this month that U.S. employers had 5.75 million job openings in March, just shy of the record set in July 2015. But employers added 160,000 jobs in April, shy of the 205,000 jobs economists had expected. The weaker-than-expected growth reinforced fears that the labor market’s robust growth might stall out due to a sluggish economy.
The Challenger, Gray & Christmas report cautioned that it’s not unusual to see large-scale layoffs in a strong economy. “Companies are constantly retooling, and sometimes the best time to do that is when the economy is strong,” said CEO John Challenger.