updated 11/2/2006 9:11:48 AM ET 2006-11-02T14:11:48

Planned U.S. layoffs fell 31 percent in October from the previous month, led by cuts in the automotive and retail industries, an independent report showed on Thursday.

Major Market Indices

Announced layoffs totaled 69,177 in October, down from 100,315 in September, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., an employment consulting firm.

Companies in the auto sector planned 19,497 of the total cuts, while retailers planned 11,178 job cuts. It was the fifth time this year that the auto sector led all other sectors in monthly cuts, the report showed.

“The housing slowdown is also rippling through the economy, but it is not as evident as the troubles in the auto industry,” said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Auto industry job cuts so far this year have risen to 131,139 compared with 89,016 in 2005.

“The (retail) cuts are not necessarily a sign of weakness heading into the holidays. In fact, two of the larger cuts were more indicative of retail’s competitive environment,” Challenger said.

K’s Merchandise Mart, a small Midwest discounter, and Towers Records have both announced plans to close due to competition, he said.

So far this year, U.S. employers have announced 708,406 job cuts, 18 percent fewer than the 864,953 cuts in the first 10 months of 2005, the firm said.

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