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Challenger Report: Job cuts on the rise

Retailers were busy adding jobs in 2018, but they also were cutting positions at the same time.

Through December, retailers announced 98,563 cuts in 2018, 29.5% higher than the 76,084 announced last year, according to a report released by global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Retail cuts comprise 18.3% of all announced cuts this year, the report found, with a large part of the cuts due large-scale layoff announcements from store closings.

Major job cut announcements in retail came from Toys "R" Us, which closed its doors in March. (Challenger, Gray & Christmas tracked 30,000 cuts at the time due to the company's bankruptcy.)

In addition, Sears has been steadily cutting jobs and closing stores. The placement firm tracked 10,016 planned cuts at Sears and Kmart stores this year. In all, retailers announced plans to hire 699,560 individuals in 2018, 439,000 of which were seasonal, the firm said.

"While retailers have made significant job cuts this year, the industry is also doing the bulk of hiring, albeit seasonally,” said Andrew Challenger, VP of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “It remains to be seen if retailers cut these jobs in the New Year.”

Total job cuts in 2018 rose 28.6% over 2017. In total, 538,659 job cuts were announced in 2018 — the highest total since 2015 when 598,510 cuts were recorded — compared to 418,770 announced in 2017, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

In other findings from the report:

• During the final quarter of the year, employers announced 172,601 job cuts, 42.8% higher than the 120,879 recorded in the third quarter and 77.4% higher than the 97,292 announced in the same quarter last year. It is the highest quarterly total since the first quarter of 2016, when 180,920 cuts were announced.

• December’s job cut total is 17.3% lower than the 53,073 cuts announced in November and 35.3% higher than the cuts announced in the same month last year.

• Challenger, Gray & Christmas tracked 798 announced job cuts specifically due to enacted tariffs.

"It remains to be seen, especially as new trade deals continue to be negotiated and tariffs are lifted or further enforced, what the impact on job cuts will be,” Challenger said. “The large-scale job cut announcements due to these tariffs have yet to be announced, it seems.”
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