The job market in finance continued to recover last month, as planned layoffs in the industry plummeted, according to a report by Chicago-based outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
Banks, brokerages and other financial service companies announced plans to cut 759 employees in May, a significant decrease from April, when they handed out almost 3,500 pink slips.
"The pressure has eased up on the banking sector in the last month," said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "Companies and banks are continuing to become more healthy as they work off some of their bad loans and they begin to dip into the lending waters."
The most layoffs, 193, were in Pennsylvania, while the second highest number, 157, took place in Kentucky, according to an analysis by FINS and Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Slightly more than half of the downsizing was a result of branch and corporate closings. The rest came from restructuring initiatives.
For the year to date, U.S. finance companies have announced 11,413 layoffs, an increase of 2,000, or 21.2% over the same period in 2010.
Challenger downplayed the increase, noting that most of the layoffs came early this year. Data in recent months has been much more promising.
"There's more confidence out there," he said. "It's a good sign for banks. We were still mired in the jobless recovery in the beginning of the year."
While Challenger anticipates increased hiring in the sector over the next couple quarters, he cautions that there will "rough patches" and that the economy is still undergoing a "rocky recovery."
Write to Julie Steinberg