CHICAGO, April 4 (UPI) -- The monthly number of layoffs at U.S. firms has exceeded the same month a year earlier for four of the past six months, a private employment firm said.
Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said there were 49,255 announced job layoffs in March, which was a drop of 11 percent from February, but an increase of 30 percent from March 2012 when 37,880 job cuts were announced.
March is the second consecutive month and the fourth of the past six in which announced cuts exceeded the same month of the previous year.
Add it all up and job cut announcements January through March were the highest of any quarter since 2011, the firm said.
In the first quarter of the year, employers announced 145,041 layoffs, a 5.6 percent increase from the fourth quarter of 2012, which included 137,361 job cut announcements, and a 1.4 percent climb from January through March in 2012.
Chief Executive Officer John Challenger said the retail environment looked especially precarious.
"While consumer spending is up in 2013, many retailers have been fighting for their lives since the end of the recession," Challenger said, pointing out that Best Buy, JC Penney, Sears and Kmart have all announced job cuts recently and movie rental chain Blockbuster has shuttered its business.