US employers announced the highest number of job cuts in four years in 2019 even as the economy maintained a historically low unemployment rate, according to a new report.
The outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said on Thursday that employers announced plans to eliminate 592,556 jobs last year, a 10% rise from 2018 levels. That was the largest annual total since 598,510 were announced in 2015. Over the past decade, job-cut announcements were higher only in 2009 and 2011.
The sectors with the highest number of cuts this year faced trade concerns, emerging technologies, and shifts in consumer behavior, said Andrew Challenger, the vice president of the Chicago firm. Companies most often said a bankruptcy or restructuring was behind the changes, according to the report.
A tit-for-tat trade dispute between the US and China has cast uncertainty on businesses since early 2018, threatening to raise costs and disrupting global supply chains. “Trade difficulties” were cited as the reason for 11,688 job cuts, while tariffs accounted for 5,881, according to the report.
But the broader labor market has held up better than was expected against a backdrop of slower growth abroad and widespread trade tensions, adding nonfarm payrolls for a record 110th month in December. For much of the year, the unemployment rate held near a half-century low.