WASHINGTON — There were 40,289 layoff intentions announced in September, down from 50,462 in August, but up from 33,816 job cuts announced in  September 2012, job placement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, Inc. said in a report released Thursday.

The data are not seasonally adjusted.

Layoffs in September were led by the health care sector, which reported 8,128 jobs cuts in the month, the third time in the last five months that that sector has posted the largest total.

John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, attributed that trend to cuts in reimbursements through Medicare and Medicaid as well as cuts in federal spending due to the sequester.

The financial sector posted the second largest jobs cuts total in the month, with 6,932 layoff intentions. For the year as a whole, the financial sector has accounted for 48,874 cuts, the most of any industry.

However, in this case, those cuts may be more good news than bad news. A number of the job cuts occurred in foreclosure divisions within the banks, an area that has been shrinking as the overload of foreclosures has been worked down.

"If there can be any silver lining in job-cut announcements, the banking cuts seem to be stemming from an improving economy," Challenger said. "They are the result of fewer foreclosures and higher interest rates, neither of which would occur in a downward-heading economy."

In other data released, hiring intentions surged to 444,617 in September from 7,662 in August, and were up from the 425,683 intentions announced in September 2012.

As they did a year ago, a number of large retail firms announced their hiring intentions for the upcoming holiday season, led by plans for 83,000 seasonal hires at Macy's and 70,000 each at Target and Amazon. In total, retail hiring plans were 439,463 in September, up from 413,700 in September 2012.

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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