CEO turnover hits 4-year high in January

In January, the nation's top chief executives left their posts at the highest rate in four years. 

Turnover among CEOs surged 32.3 percent last month, increasing to 131 last month, up from 99 in December, according to a report released Wednesday by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a global outplacement firm.

It was the highest monthly total since February 2010, when 132 CEO departures were announced.

January's total also was 15.9 percent higher than the same month a year ago, when 113 CEO exits were announced.  

“It is not unusual to see a surge in CEO turnover to start the year," said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“Now, we may be seeing another shift from conservation to growth.” 

The healthcare and financial sectors led all industries in turnover last month with 24 departures each.

The government and nonprofit sector followed with 22, and computer firms recorded 10 CEO changes for the month.

All told 43 CEOs cited retirement as their reason for leaving. The average tenure for departing executives was almost 15 years, the highest on Challenger record.

Another 32 CEOs resigned and 22 stepped down from the CEO role.