It's not easy being at the top, but a fresh report released Wednesday shows staying there got a little easier for chief executives at the nation's companies, as the number of departures dropped by nearly a third in August compared to a year ago.

Last month, just 101 CEOs tossed in the towel compared to 144 in August last year, according to executive search firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. It is the sixth time this year, Challenger noted, that monthly CEO turnovers decreased from the same period in 2008.
"This downward trend is likely to continue for the remainder of the year, as companies try to maintain their footing and stabilize operations after a stormy economic climate," Challenger CEO John Challenger said in a statement. Still, he said it was possible that turnovers in the corner office may rise next year "as some companies respond to the recovery by installing more growth-oriented leadership."

Resignation was the most common reason, accounting for 25 of all CEO departures. Nineteen stepped into other positions within the company, primarily as chairman or board member. Ten founds jobs in other companies while five others found other positions within the same firm, heading other divisions or units.

Energy companies saw the largest number of departures last month, the report said, followed by the computer industry and health care. Of particular note was Boeing (BA) CEO Scott Carson's decision to retire last month. Carson's 787 Dreamliner program has come under considerable scrutiny for a series of delays associated with the aircraft's development.

For the year, Challenger said, 834 CEOs have left their jobs, down 16 percent from a year ago, when 992 CEO changes had been announced by August 2008.

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