Employers in the U.S. announced more job cuts in February than in the same month last year, led by a surge at government agencies.
Planned firings increased 20 percent to 50,702 last month from February 2010, the first year-over-year gain since May 2009, according to a report today from Chicago-based Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. Announcements at federal, state and local government offices almost tripled from last year.
“More job cuts at the federal level are expected in the months ahead as pressure mounts to cut costs and rein in the soaring national debt,” John A. Challenger, the outplacement company’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.
Dismissals of government workers may contribute to a slowdown in consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of the economy. Combined with the highest gasoline prices in two years, the threat of a pause in purchases may already be causing retailers, which had the second-biggest number of announcements last month, to pare payrolls, said Challenger.
“If gasoline tops $4 per gallon in the coming weeks, consumers may be forced to make significant changes to their spending habits,” said Challenger. “At this stage of the recovery, that could be an extremely damaging setback.”