Planned job cuts by U.S. employers declined for the third month in a row for May, Chicago outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. said Thursday.

U.S. employers planned to cut 36,398 jobs in May, 4.5 percent fewer than their planned cuts in April. For January-May 2013, there were 11 percent fewer scheduled job cuts, 219,560, than the 245,540 planned cuts in the same period a year before.

This isn’t too unusual, however. Employers typically retain more jobs during the summer months, and May is historically the best month for job retention figures, according to Challenger.

“The overall pace of downsizing has slowed from 2012 levels,” said John Challenger, CEO of the consultancy. “That is particularly good news in light of the fact that 2012 saw the fewest annual job cuts since 1997.”

Challenger also said the feared mass layoffs caused by the federal budget sequester have yet to materialize, with fewer than 1,500 job losses attributed to the cutbacks.

“We expect layoffs to remain muted through the third quarter,” said Challenger, who pointed to an improving housing sector as one factor boosting consumer confidence.

In April, planned job cuts fell to their lowest level since December 2012. May’s planned job cuts were even lower than those planned in April.

According to the ADP National Employment report from Wednesday, the private sector added 135,000 jobs in May, lower than the expected 165,000.