Challenger Gray & Christmas report fewer layoffs in June

According to a survey by outplacement consultants Challenger Gray & Christmas, June saw corporate layoff announcements drop to the slowest pace in 15 months. During June, 74,393 people were laid off -- which was 33 percent lower than May's 111,182 layoffs and 9 percent less than a year ago. Moreover, announced cuts have exceeded the 100,000 mark each month dating back to last September.

In the past six months, 896,675 jobs have been cut -- the largest figure the group has seen since it began tracking announcements in 1989. In addition, before we get too excited about the fact that June's layoff numbers have decreased, let's take into account that Challenger Gray & Christmas only track announced job cuts -- there are many more layoffs that don't receive the same billing as others, and the figures are not seasonally adjusted.

Bottom line: This is good news but, combined with the recently released ADP employment numbers, it could cause a bit of unjust euphoria as far as our current economic state is concerned.

One reason for the optimism is that these reports precede the Labor Department's report on nonfarm payroll growth for June. My concern is that we will see the market rally today, only to be let down tomorrow morning when the employment numbers are released (of course, how far can you be let down when you expect unemployment to rise to 9.6 percent? Plenty of reason to be optimistic, right?). Let's remember that we are in the midst of a nasty downturn, one we will not emerge from until unemployment shrinks . . . and the last time I checked, 9.6 percent unemployment is pretty high.

I just worry that expectations are going to be big heading into tomorrow's report, and further stoking of the bullish flames by the media could lead to a disappointing end to a holiday-shortened week.

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