But the pace of layoffs has eased since peaking at 248,332 in September, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas. The number of layoff announcements fell 11 percent to 161,584 in December from November's 181,412.
About 40 percent of the year's 1.96 million layoff announcements came after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, said John Challenger, the firm's CEO. "The job-cut numbers in 2001 far exceeded anything we ever could have anticipated back in January," Challenger said.
The Labor Department will report on the December employment situation on Friday. In November, firms cut 331,000 jobs. Economists are expecting job losses of 142,000. The government agency said first-time claims for jobless benefits rose by 36,000 to 447,000 in the latest week. Continuing claims rose to 3.72 million.
Telecomunications companies led the pack in 2001, cutting nearly 318,000 jobs. Motorola, Nortel and Lucent all announced more than 40,000 job cuts in 2001.
Computer companies announced 168,395 cuts in 2001, followed by industrial goods companies (153,952), electronics (153,432) and automotive (133,686). While the cuts have been concentrated in manufacturing, especially high-technology, the ripples of the recession are spreading to other sectors.
Retail layoffs have doubled in the past three months of the year, Challenger said. More downsizing in the sector is likely in 2002, he said.
"Cautious consumer spending will likely continue as more people find themselves out of work," Challenger said. "Additionally, some retailing experts predict there will be a shakeout among the numerous retailers all offering the same lines at similar prices." In December, telecom companies announced 25,021 cuts, followed by financial with 16,305 and services with 14,771.
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