Private survey: Third-quarter job cuts fall to lowest level since 1996
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The number of job cuts by U.S. employers decreased by 4.4 percent in September to the lowest level since 1996, according to a private survey.

A report released by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. showed 32,346 last month, compared to 33,825 in August.

“Job cuts have remained low since the second half of last year. As companies grapple with potential deregulation and changes to health care costs in a tight labor market, employers are holding on to their existing workforces while many positions requiring skilled labor go unfilled," John Challenger, the firm's CEO, said in a news release.

So far in 2017, employers have reported 321,478 job cuts, compared to 435,612 cuts at this point last year.

The service industry has been hit hard, however. It saw a 193 percent increase in job cuts from this time last year, with 24,977 reported through September. 

The retail industry has had 71,057 cuts in 2017 — a 36.8 percent increase from last year. But retail is at the top of the list in hiring notifications, the firm noted.

“The fourth quarter is typically when we see the highest number of job cuts, as companies determine their needs for the next fiscal year,” Challenger said.

“With cuts down from last year in most industries, people should remain optimistic about job prospects,” he said.