Job cuts have hit their highest total in a quarter since 2015 with employment in the automotive and energy sectors decreasing the most in March, according to a report from Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

In the first quarter of the fiscal year, employers cut 190,410 jobs, an increase of 35.6% from a year earlier. The first-quarter numbers were the highest since the third quarter of 2015, and the highest first-quarter total since more than 560,000 job cuts were announced in the first quarter of 2009.

Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger, said he thinks part of the reason for the uptick in job cuts is companies preparing for a possible downturn in the market

"Several indications, such as the number of companies filing for bankruptcy or closing operations, suggest we're heading for a downturn. The recent proposal to close the southern border adds to the uncertainty and may contribute to more cuts as companies try to adapt," Challenger said.

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Companies announced plans to get rid of 60,587 jobs in March, down 21% from February's total of 76,835. The automotive sector cut 8,838 jobs while the energy sector had 8,149 job cuts. Challenger noted companies in both the sectors are attempting to get more youth and talent to compete with some of the bigger tech firms that are starting to compete in these sectors.

The retail sector continues to lead the fiscal year in job cuts with 46,061 through the first three months of the year Store closings are driving much of the job closures, according to Challenger. However, these companies have also been in a constant cycle of hiring, and Challenger pointed to Home Depot's (HD) - Get Home Depot, Inc. (HD) Report plan to hire 80,000 employees during the spring and summer seasons as an example.

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