Job cuts fall for second consecutive month

Employers announced plans to cut 92,917 jobs in December, 41 per cent fewer than the 157,508 cuts announced in November, according to a report issued today by Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

December’s figure was 42 per cent lower than the 161,584 posted in December 2001, when jobs were lost, in part, because of the aftermath of that year’s Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Challenger said.

The December figures marked the ninth time in 2002 that job cuts were lower than they had been in the same month a year earlier.

However, despite the late-year decline, the total number of cuts announced in 2002 – 1,466,823 – was the second largest annual total on record, Challenger said. The 2002 total was 25 per cent lower than the record 1,946,876 job cut announcements tracked by Challenger in 2001.

“The drop below 100,000 in December is not much to celebrate nor is it an indication of a downward trend,” said John A. Challenger, CEO, Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “We certainly are not out of the woods yet. Last year at this time, declines in November and December gave way to a more than 86,000 job cut surge in January.”

The telecommunications sector posted 268,857 cuts in 2002, the most of any industry, according to Challenger. The computer industry ranked second with 131,294 announced cuts.

Although the telecom cuts were 15 per cent lower than the 317,777 cuts announced in 2001, the 2002 cuts represented a larger percentage of all job cuts -18 per cent of last year’s job cuts came from the struggling telecom sector. That compared with 16 per cent last year, Challenger said.

All together, the high-tech industries – telecommunications, computer, electronics and e-commerce – posted a combined 468,161 job cuts, or 32 per cent of all cuts, announced in 2002, the firm said.

“Telecommunications and the other high-tech industries will probably continue having troubles in 2003, which does not bode well for the workers who have managed to keep their jobs,” said John Challenger. “The biggest problem the sector is facing is the lack of new technology spending on the part of businesses.”

Challenger also said companies are not planning to increase hiring in 2003, but rather continue to eliminate jobs.