Though the job market remains challenging for many Americans, for one group, at least, the labor market was at its steadiest of the year last month, a new survey shows.

The number of chief executives departing their jobs fell to 79 in November, the lowest monthly number so far this year, according to a report by job-services firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. November's tally also marks the fewest CEO exits since April 2009 when 78 CEOs either quit, retired or were fired.

Wednesday's report noted that departures in November fell 16% compared to a year ago when 94 CEOs departed. For the year so far, announced CEO departures, at 1,127, are nearly unchanged from the year-to-date total in November 2009: 1,122. Resignation is by far the most common reason CEOs leave their posts, Challenger noted, followed by retirement.

Following two months of declines in the number of departures, the downward trend may continue into 2011 as companies look to stabilize leadership ranks, said Challenger CEO John Challenger. "But, then again, we may see a surge in December," he added, noting that in three of the past four years, departures in December surged by an average 15% above November levels.

Industries leading the number of departures included finance and health care/products with 16 each, the report said. Computer, industrial goods, government/nonprofit and real estate all followed with at least five CEO departures within each industry.

Among notable CEO resignations, Challenger cited Henry Meyers of KeyCorp (KEY), where he also serves as chairman. Meyers plans to retire next spring when vice chairwoman Beth Mooney will take over, becoming the first female CEO of a top 50 U.S. bank and one of fewer than 20 Fortune 500 female CEOs.

"It is too soon to tell if Mooney's ascent to the top spot at KeyCorp will usher in a new era in women CEOs," Challenger said. "If it does, many would probably agree that it would be positive trend that is long overdue."






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