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Quarterly planned job cuts fall to 9-year low

January 06, 2010 | “MarketWatch"

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- Planned job reductions fell in the fourth quarter to the lowest level in more than nine years, according to a tally kept by outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas.

Big U.S. companies announced 45,094 job reductions in December, the fewest since the recession began two years ago. December's total was down 10% from November's 50,349 and down 73% from December 2008.

In the fourth quarter, companies announced just 151,121 job reductions, the fewest since early 2000 and down 67% from the fourth quarter of 2008, Challenger said Wednesday.

For all of 2009, big companies announced 1.288 million job cuts, up about 5% from 2008's total and the most since 2002. About 70% of the year's total occurred in the first six months of the year.

"Somewhere in the second or third quarter, we turned a corner and, now, as we begin 2010, there are promising signs of continued improvement," said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "It is a promising sign of fewer job cuts in 2010."

Challenger noted that layoffs slowed in the second half for most of the hardest-hit sectors, including retail (down 85% from the first half to the second), industrial goods (down 62%), autos (down 54%) and government and nonprofits (down 33%).

Challenger's monthly tally covers only a small fraction of those who lose their jobs each month. Most layoffs are not announced in press releases.

According to the government's most recent report, 2.1 million people lost their jobs by layoff or termination in October. Through the first 10 months of the year, the government counted 23.5 million layoffs.

By Rex Nutting, MarketWatch


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