Announced job cuts fell to the lowest level of the year in December as U.S.-based employers reported plans to reduce payrolls by 30,623 during the month, representing a 32% decline from a November total of 45,314, according to a new report by the global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

2013 planned jobs cuts versus those in 2012. Graphic: Challenger, Gray & Christmas

2013 planned jobs cuts versus those in 2012. Graphic: Challenger, Gray & Christmas

The December total was 6% lower than the 32,556 job cuts announced in the same month a year earlier, marking the third consecutive year-over-year decline.

Last month was not only the lowest job-cut month in 2013 it was also the lowest job-cut month in more than 13 years. The last time employers announced fewer job cuts was June 2000, when 17,241 planned layoffs were recorded.

Overall, employers announced a total of 509,051 planned job cuts in 2013, down 3% from 2012, the lowest annual job-cut total since 434,350 cuts were announced in 1997.

The fourth quarter of the year saw a slight increase in October job cuts, followed by consecutive declines in monthly job cuts to close out 2013. In all, 121,667 job cuts were announced over the final three months of the year, which was 5.3% lower than the previous quarter and 11% less than the fourth quarter of 2012.

“Employers seem less and less inclined to make dramatic staffing decisions in the final month of the year. We have had several years, when it was among the largest job-cut months of the year, if not the largest,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “Over the last five years, however, December job cuts have come in well below the annual average. It was the lowest job-cut total this year and the second lowest a year ago.

Challenger said the reason could be the spirit of the holiday season that is prompting employers to hold off on announcing layoff plans, but suggested it is more likely to be the result of increased confidence heading into each new year.

“The recovery has been slow, but every year since the recession has been better than the previous