WASHINGTON - There were 32,239 layoff intentions announced in August, down from 36,855 in July, and from the 51,114 job cuts announced in August 2011, job placement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, Inc. said in a report released Thursday. The data are not seasonally adjusted.

The August total was the lowest for a single-month since December 2010.

Layoffs in August were led by the telecommunications sector, which reported 4,584 job reductions in the month. Of those, roughly 4,000 can be attributed to the Google acquisition of Motorola Mobile, Challenger said.

Year-to-date, there have been 352,185 layoff announcements in 2012, down from the 363,334 layoffs announced in the first 8 months of 2011. The 2012 running total tracked above the 2011 running total for the first half of the year, but declines in the last three months have pulled the year-to-date total for 2012 below the level a year ago.

Challenger noted that average layoffs in the June-August summer period tend to be lower than the average for the full year, but that 2011 was one of the rare exceptions. As a result the year-to-date improvement for 2012 may need to be view cautiously.

Also going forward, a very large jump in layoff announcements in September 2011, which was attributable to planned military reductions, added sharply to 2011, so a 2012 improvement in the year-to-date total through September announced next month may not be the full story.

In addition, even with the signs of improvement in layoffs in recent months, Challenger remains cautious about the remainder of the year.

"If international job-cut activity is any indication, we may see a surge in downsizing in the final months of 2012 and into 2013," said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

"The US does not exist in a bubble," he added. "The ongoing crisis in Europe and weak economies around the globe will undoubtedly take a toll on the economy. There is a chance workers might be spared from a renewal of large-scale job cuts, but the situation beyond our borders certainly will not inspire companies to start adding workers en masse."

In other data released, hiring intentions rose to 12,079 in August from 10,350 in July, but were down from 15,201 in August 2011. August hiring plans were led by the automotive sector.

Market News International is a real-time global news service for fixed-income and foreign exchange market professionals. See www.marketnews.com.

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