Planned U.S. Layoffs Drop 63% in October

The number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms dropped in October after hitting a more than 2-year high the month before, while seasonal positions pushed hiring plans sharply higher, a report Wednesday showed.

Employers announced 42,759 planned job cuts last month, tumbling 63.1 percent from 115,730 the month before, according to the report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. It was the lowest level in four months.

Still, October's job cuts were up 12.6 percent from the same time a year ago when 37,986 layoffs were announced. For 2011 so far, employers have announced 521,823 cuts, outpacing the 449,258 layoffs announced during the the first 10 months of 2010.

The total for the year remains well off recession levels, the report said. In 2009, layoffs stood at 1,192,587 by October.

Fewer layoffs in the financial and government sectors drove the decrease last month, though they are still the top job-cutting industries for the year.

``We seem to be in a pattern of two or more consecutive months with low job-cut totals, followed by a sudden spike one month, typically resulting from a small number of large layoffs,'' John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in a statement.

``But this is not surprising in light of how slow and uneven this recovery has been. We will probably see more of the same through the first half of 2012.''

Meanwhile, hiring plans surged to 159,177 last month from 76,551 in September as companies announced seasonal positions. Retail jobs led the way with 133,940 openings.

The release comes two days ahead of the key U.S. jobs report from the government, which is forecast to show the economy created 95,000 jobs last month.

(Reporting by Leah Schnurr, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)