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Fewer people found themselves getting pink slips in September.

According to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, U.S.-based employers announced they were eliminating 32,346 jobs in September -- down 4.4 percent from the month before and a year-over-year decline of 27 percent.

“Job cuts have remained low since the second half of last year,” said Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John Challenger. “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."

The September announcement brings the third quarter total to 94,478 -- 6.2 percent lower than the previous three months and down 22.5 percent from the third quarter of 2016.

It also puts the third quarter total at its lowest level since the same period last year and marks the lowest third quarter total since the third quarter of 1996.

So far this year, 321,478 job cuts have been announced -- a drop of 26.2 percent from the first 9 months of 2016.

Retail on the front line

The retail sector is the top job cutter, with 71,057 so far this year and 3,461 in September alone. That's up 36.8 percent from September 2016.

However, while retail leads in announced job cuts, it's also the top sector for hiring announcements, with plans to add over 500,000 new jobs -- both seasonal and permanent.

The service sector has seen 24,977 payroll positions go away so far this year, up a whopping 193 percent from same period last year. Health care companies came in third with 24,761 terminations.

“The fourth quarter is typically when we see the highest number of job cuts, as companies determine their needs for the next fiscal year,” said Challenger. “With cuts down from last year in most industries, people should remain optimistic about job prospects.”

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Jobless claims

There was a big drop in the filings of first-time applications for state unemployment benefits during the final week of September.

The Department of Labor (DOL) reports initial claims in the week ending September 30 totaled 260,000, down 12,000 from the previous week.

The four-week moving average, which provides what some economists believe is a more accurate picture of the labor market, came in at 268,250, a drop of 9,500 from a week earlier.

The complete report is available on the DOL website.

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