Our workplace is being hit by the worst layoff toll in years - and things stand to get worse.
January set a record for layoffs - 142,208 - or an average 6,182 per day, breaking an all-time high set just a month earlier in December at 133,713 - the most gloomy results since downsizing surveys began in 1993.
Together, that 60-day period wiped out 275,921 jobs, a record pace, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement agency that began tracking layoffs in 1993.
At that pace, 2001 could go down as the worst year for layoffs in a decade, the report said.
"Job security has suffered a severe shock, plunging seemingly out of the blue from a let-the-good-times-roll economy," said John Challenger, CEO of the firm.
It was the first time planned job cuts totaled more than 100,000 for two consecutive months.
"It appears that companies have already been heavily impacted by the slowing economy or are preparing for the worst through deep cuts in payroll costs," Challenger said.
In the latest job cuts announced yesterday by several companies, at least 1,500 jobs were targeted for downsizing.
Among them: air mattress-maker Select Comfort will cut 6 percent of its work force, or 100 jobs, at its retail stores.
Drug-store chain Phar-Mor said it will fire an undisclosed number of workers at its 139 stores.
Semiconductor service firm ChipPAC will lay off 10 to 20 percent of its 6,700 employees to cut costs in the sagging semiconductor market.
Challenger observed, "It is still not clear where the economy is headed in 2001."
He said the worst year on survey records was 1998, when 677,795 jobs were eliminated - but that figure could be eclipsed this year because in the last two months alone, corporate layoffs have reached 41 percent of the 1998 total.
Last week, the government said the economy slowed sharply in the closing months of 2000 to a meek 1.4 percent annual rate of growth, down from a 2.2 percent pace in the third quarter.
The automotive sector led all industries, with 34,959 job cut announcements during January. Telecommunication companies had 22,060 planned layoffs, while retailers announced 15,344 job cuts.
Internet and e-commerce companies announced 11,887 layoffs, and computer companies said they were cutting 10,904 jobs.
Fallout from the auto industry layoffs continued to make an impact at other companies.
Several vendors for General Motors have been cutting back following GM's production line reductions, including Delphi Automotive Systems, which this week fired 3,600 employees.
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