There are pockets of pain across the economy.
The Labor Department this week also reported a dip in the number of new people filing for unemployment, a figure that remains at historically low levels. Nonetheless, “over all, the job cuts that we saw in 2019 were fairly high, higher than you would expect,” said Andy Challenger, a vice president at Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement firm that tracks layoff announcements.
Industrial goods and automobile manufacturers were the hardest hit, in part because of the trade war. “As rosy as the numbers look from a high level, there’s still pain out there, jobs cuts that are happening, industries that are struggling and people losing their jobs,” Mr. Challenger said.
Because the company’s survey tracks layoff announcements — as opposed to jobs that have been eliminated — he said that it was “a bit more forward-looking” than the Labor Department’s figures. Plans can change, he noted, but the results “point to sentiments, if they think they’re going to cut.”
The persistent uncertainty, which nudges businesses to be more cautious in hiring and investment, is far from clearing.
There has been progress on the trade front — the United States and China have reached the first phase of an agreement that officials are expected to sign next week. But two-thirds of Chinese imports, worth $360 billion, are still subject to tariffs. And President Trump has said he will impose more tariffs on imports from Europe this month.
Adding to the unsettled atmosphere are unexpected global developments, like the threat of a broader clash between the United States and Iran after the president’s decision to kill a top Iranian general. Iran struck American air bases in Iraq in retaliation this week, but the attack is said to have resulted in no casualties, and tensions have eased.
The jobs numbers will be revised.
The department’s monthly report is based on two surveys, one of employers and the other of households. Economists there are continually updating their results, and Friday’s report takes account of some very minor adjustments.