After reaching a seven-year high in 2009, downsizing activity in 2010 fell to its lowest level since 1997, as employers announced plans to eliminate 529,973 positions, according to a report from outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

“The year came to a close with the lowest monthly job-cut total since 2000,” Challenger said. “Planned layoffs totaled 32,004 in December, down 34 percent from 48,711 in November.

December’s job cuts were 29 percent lower than the same month a year ago when 45,094 cuts were announced.

December surpassed August (34,768) as the lowest job-cut month of the year. It was the lowest monthly total since June 2000 when employers cut 17,241 jobs.

The 529,973 job cuts announced during [2010] were 59 percent fewer than the 1,288,030 layoffs recorded in 2009, the largest downsizing year since 2002 (1,466,823),” the agency noted.

The 2010 total was the lowest since 434,350 job cuts were announced in 1997.

“The downsizing phase of the recession really came to an end in 2009. Job cutting fell dramatically in the second half of that year. The pace of downsizing continued to slow in 2010 to levels we have not seen since before the 2001 recession,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.