U.S.-based employers announced plans to trim 51,114 workers from the payrolls in August, a 23-percent decline from July, when the number of job cuts hit a 16-month high of 66,414, according to the latest report from global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

The August decline follows three consecutive increases in the monthly job-cut total that saw job cuts rise from 36,490 in April to the July peak.  The August total, however, was up 47 percent from a year ago, when employers announced just 34,768 job cuts during the month.
Employers have announced 363,334 planned layoffs so far this year. That is only 2.9 percent below the 2010 eight-month job-cut total of 374,121.  The gap between 2010 and 2011 year-to-date job cuts has steadily fallen over the last few months. In March, year-to-date job cuts were 28 percent behind 2010. By June, the difference dropped to 17 percent.  

“July job cuts spiked as a result of a handful of surprisingly large job-cut announcements in the private sector,” said John A. Challenger, CEO of CG&C. “It is too soon to tell whether those cuts were an anomaly, but they appeared to be driven by industry- and company-specific trends, as opposed to larger economic ones.”

In August, government agencies announced plans to cut 18,426 workers from their payrolls.  That is nearly double the 9,389 job cuts announced in the sector in July and not far behind the largest government job-cut month of the year, March, when these employers announced 19,099 job cuts.

The government sector has now announced 105,406 job cuts this year.  The next closest sector is retail, which has announced 40,173, including 5,901 in August.