Job cuts increase but remain relatively flat

While concerns increase that the economy is headed for a similar downturn as this time last year, the firm isn't expecting an increase in downsizing activity. 

"Even with the increased job cuts in consumer products, retail and transportation, the monthly totals remain well below levels that would signal a reversal in the recovery," Challenger said. 

Since 2010, the pace of downsizing has remained relatively low and stable, averaging around 47,000 per month, compared with more than 104,000 a month in 2008 and 2009.

So far this year, employers have announced 183,653 job cuts, 9.8 percent more than the 167,239 by this point last year.   

Despite the year-over-year increase, the monthly average of 45,913 through the first four months of the year is below the 12-month average of 50,507 last year, the report said. 

Last month’s job cuts were led by the education sector, where school districts remain under pressure to cut costs amid growing state and local budget deficits.  

The positive news is that despite the April surge in education cuts, the pace of downsizing in the sector is down 32 percent from a year ago. 

This year, education job cuts total 14,710, compared with 21,505 at this point a year ago. 

Meanwhile, the broader government sector is seeing a drop in cuts. 

While planned cuts increased to 3,100 in April, the 8,850 job cuts announced by government agencies year-to-date is 83 percent lower than the 52,660 job cuts announced in the first four months of 2011.

For the year, consumer products firms are the leading job cutters, having announced 20,134 planned job cuts through April, 257 percent more than the 5,632 cuts announced by this point a year ago. 

However, the bulk of the cuts, 13,856, occurred in February but have fallen dramatically since. 

Job cuts in the transportation sector also have spiked, heading up to 18,774 as of April, up 417 percent from 3,630 in 2011.  

Again, the bulk of the cuts (14,065) occurred in February. 

“Job creation, while in positive territory for 25 consecutive months, has definitely ebbed and flowed," Challenger said. 

"Even at its best, job creation is falling well short of what is needed to make a substantial dent in unemployment," he said.