Planned layoffs rise in June: Challenger

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms increased for the second month in a row in June, though downsizing in the first half of the year was at the lowest level since 2000, a report on Wednesday showed.

Employers announced 41,432 planned job cuts last month, up 11.6 percent from 37,135 in May, according to the report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. Job cuts were up 5.3 percent from 39,358 in June last year.

"The employment picture remains a bit cloudy," John Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in a statement.

"Continued slowness in the pace of job cuts is certainly promising. However, hiring is coming in spurts and is not quite robust enough to make a significant dent in unemployment."

While some sectors saw significant increases in layoffs in the first six months of the year, it was not an indication that job cuts will surge in the second half of the year, Challenger said. The government and non-profit sector continued to see the heaviest downsizing, accounting for 10,176 announced cuts in June.

For the first six months of the year, job cuts totaled 245,806, down 17.4 percent from 297,677 cuts in the first half of last year. The six-month total was the lowest since 2000 when 223,421 job cuts were announced between January and June.

In the second quarter, 115,057 job cuts were announced, down 12 percent from the previous quarter and off 1.2 percent from the second quarter of 2010.

(Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Leslie Adler)