Street Talk: 2019’s job cuts go out like a lamb


Job cuts announced by U.S.-based employers fell for the second consecutive month, to 32,843, the lowest monthly total since 27,122 cuts were announced in July 2018, according to a report released Jan. 2 from global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Last month’s total is 26.3% lower than the 44,569 cuts announced in November and 25.2% lower than the 43,884 announced in the same month last year.

Employers announced plans to cut 592,556 jobs from their payrolls in 2019, 10% higher than the 538,695 cuts announced in 2018. It is the highest annual total since 2015 when 598,510 cuts were announced. 2019 was the fourth-highest year for job cut announcements this decade.

“Confidence was high heading into the last month of the year. With some resolutions occurring in the trade war and strong consumer spending in the fourth quarter, companies appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach as we head into 2020,” said Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger Gray.

Of the 592,556 cuts announced last year, 127,687 were in the fourth quarter, the lowest quarterly total since 120,879 cuts were announced in Q3 2018. It is 4.6% lower than the prior quarter's total of 133,882 and 26% lower than the same quarter in 2018 when 172,601 cuts were announced. It is the lowest fourth-quarter total since 2017 when 97,292 cuts were announced.

Retail led all sectors in 2019 with 77,475 job cuts, but that was 21% lower than the 98,563 cuts announced in 2018. 48,753 of those cuts were due to bankruptcies. Industrial goods manufacturers followed with 70,894 cuts, which was 156% higher than the 27,644 announced in 2018. It was the highest total for this sector since 2009 when 125,423 cuts were announced.

The automotive industry also saw its highest number of job cut announcements since 2009 when 174,192 cuts were tracked. Companies in this sector cut 50,776 jobs in 2019, up 66% from the 30,587 announced the previous year.

Technology companies announced 64,166 job cuts in 2019, up 351% from the 14,230 announced the previous year.

“The sectors with the highest number of cuts this year were all dealing with trade concerns, emerging technologies and shifts in consumer behavior. We tracked a lot of hiring activity in these industries, as well as cuts,” Challenger said.

In fact, retailers announced 886,515 hiring plans this year, 789,781 of which were seasonal. Automakers and suppliers announced over 28,000 new jobs, while technology companies announced over 21,000, according to Challenger tracking.

Companies cited restructuring for most job cuts: 137,968, while another 130,728 were due to company or unit closings. Trade difficulties were cited as the reason for 11,688 job cuts, while tariffs accounted for 5,881.

Bankruptcy was another leading cause of job cuts. In 2019, 62,136 announced cuts were due to bankruptcy, or 10.5% of all cuts, primarily from retailers. That is the highest total for that reason since 2005 when 74,238 cuts were due to bankruptcies. Bankruptcy accounted for 6.9% of all cuts that year.

Beer channel

North Channel Brewing recently announced it is partnering with Ludington Beverage for distribution across seven West Michigan counties.

“We’re eager to give craft beer lovers across West Michigan a taste of beers brewed up north, and we’re excited to partner with a local distributor to make it happen,” said Dawn Ford, owner of North Channel Brewing. “Our beers tell the story and history of Manistee, and we’re proud to share that story with West Michigan craft beer drinkers — one pint at a time.”

North Channel Brewing opened in 2017 and is in the historic North Channel Building on Washington Avenue in downtown Manistee and is situated right next to the Manistee River and the drawbridge.

Captain Piles Pilsner and Manistee’s IPA will be craft beer lovers’ first introduction to the Manistee craft brewery.

Captain Piles is an easy-drinking, Czech-style Pilsner brewed with Pilsen malt and Saaz hops. Manistee’s IPA is North Channel’s flagship IPA and is brewed with two-row and rye malt with heavy additions of Citra hops to produce a beer bursting with citrusy aromas while maintaining a balanced malt flavor.

Ludington Beverage is a fourth-generation, family-owned beer distributor in Ludington. Veteran-owned and operated, the distributor services retailers in Manistee, Mason, Oceana, Lake, Osceola and parts of Benzie and Newaygo counties where North Channel Beers now will be located.

“At Ludington Beverage, we’re proud to promote growth, choices and competition by working with local craft breweries — like North Channel Brewing — to help them succeed today and into the future,” said Tad Reed, president of Ludington Beverage. “We’re honored North Channel Brewing chose to partner with us to help tell their story and introduce more craft beer lovers to what’s brewing in Manistee. Ludington Beverage has a long history of supporting the Manistee community, and we are excited to participate in its further economic development.”

Reading response

The Literacy Center of West Michigan received the Governor’s Service Award for Outstanding National Service Program this fall for its work in improving adult literacy.

The award was presented to the Literacy Center of West Michigan for its work through the Family Literacy program.

“Michigan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the country,” said Wendy Falb, executive director of the Literacy Center. “Addressing the literacy needs of families is necessary if we are going to change our current outcomes.”

The Family Literacy program provides literacy instruction to 240 parents, in partnership with Grand Rapids Public Schools, Godwin Heights Public Schools and Godfrey Lee Public Schools.

Family Literacy Program AmeriCorps members assist parents, who in most cases do not speak English as their first language, in improving their own language and literacy skills, increasing the use of literacy-related activities and more effectively engaging with their children’s education.

AmeriCorps members teach the classes and host monthly family activity nights where parents and children read together and learn literacy activities they can do at home.

“Schools cannot do it alone,” Falb said. “By AmeriCorps members giving a year of their life in service to our Family Literacy program, they are making a significant difference in our state.”

Now in its 11th year, the Family Literacy program provides classroom-based literacy instruction to parents at nine sites.

Philanthropic dollars ensure there is no cost to the learners, which includes free child care during class times.

“This is impactful, life-changing work for everyone — parents, children and the AmeriCorps members themselves,” said Johana Rodriguez Quist, Family Literacy program director.

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