U.S. employers planned 27 percent fewer job cuts in March compared with February and the lowest number of planned cuts since May 2011, global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. said Thursday.

But for the first quarter of this year U.S. employers announced more job cuts than they did in the first quarter of last year.

The 37,880 planned layoffs last month was down from February's 51,728 and 9 percent lower than planned layoffs in March 2011.

Telecommunications firms saw the highest number of planned job cuts announced in March with 4,089. Nearly half of that total (1,900) came from a single announcement by cellular service provider T-Mobile, which is consolidating call centers in an effort to reduce costs.

Call center workers were hit hard by March layoffs. Verizon Wireless Inc. (NYSE: VZ) also announced the closing of a call center resulting in 750 job cuts. Both Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) and QVC, a televised home shopping channel and online retailer, announced call center job cuts, affecting a combined 685 workers.

Consumer products is the leading job-cutting sector so far this year, having announced a total of 18,438 layoffs in 2012, including 2,118 in March. That represents a fourfold increase from 2011, when these firms announced 4,571 job cuts through the first three months.

The second-ranked transportation sector has seen an equally large jump in job cuts. Through March, these employers have announced 17,051 cuts, up 569 percent from the 2,547 job cuts announced by this point a year ago.

Notably absent from the list of top job cutters is the government sector, which has seen 5,750 job cuts this year. That is down 86 percent from a 2011 first-quarter total of 41,929.