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Forecast: Heavy job cuts into early 2009

Photo of Snowy Bus Shelter ©Franke James

Uncharacteristically heavy job cutting over the summer months could lead to the largest post-Labor Day downsizing since 2002. Furthermore, the surge in layoffs is expected to extend into the first three to four months of 2009 as retailers, airlines, consumer products manufacturers and other sectors of the economy absorb the impact of significantly lower holiday spending by consumers.

(Plus Tips from Industry Expert John Challenger on How To Rebound From A Job Loss and How To Survive Mass Layoffs)


Job cuts in 2008 are already on track to surpass the 2007 total of 768,264. In fact, if the pace recorded over the last three months continues through December, the 12-month total will exceed 1,000,000 for the first time since 2005, when employers announced 1,072,054 cuts.

If 2008 job cuts do surpass 1,000,000, it will be due in large part to increased downsizing activity during the summer months, a historically slow period for layoffs. From 1993 through 2007, employers announced an average of 60,762 per month between May and August. That is 18 percent lower than the 74,225 monthly job cuts averaged between January and April and 24 percent lower than the monthly average of 79,962 during the final four months of the year.

Through the first quarter, job cuts remained relatively stable, averaging just short of 67,000 per month. However, it was only a matter of time before the job market began to buckle under the pressure of the housing market collapse, the banking crisis and high oil prices. We began to see the job-cut surge in late April and it has not subsided yet. Since April, job cuts are averaging about 95,000 per month.

This upward trend does not bode well for workers and job seekers as we enter the final four months of year, when we typically see even heavier job cutting as employers attempt to meet year-end profit goals and make staffing adjustments based on the coming year’s budget.

This year will probably be no exception, with many economists and business leaders maintaining a fairly bleak economic outlook for the remainder of the year and well into 2009. In a survey of chief financial officers by Duke University and CFO magazine, 71 percent said the economy will not rebound until 2009, with 59 percent not expecting a turnaround until mid-2009 or later.

We do not expect downsizing to let up in the last months of the year. The financial sector continues to show signs of weakness.

We are also seeing more cuts in the automotive industry, where even Toyota is feeling the impact of lower consumer spending. Retailers are looking at the weakest holiday sales season since 2001, which means less hiring in October and November and heavier-than-usual layoffs in January and February.

What can you do if you are among those at risk of job loss in the closing months of the year?
It is time for employees to reevaluate their job situations and make resolutions for positive changes in the workplace. For workers in fear of being laid off, this is the time to take action to improve your standing within the company.

If you suspect that your job is at risk, take responsibility for your future. The worst thing you can do is wait for your supervisor to deliver the dreaded pink slip.

Even in times of economic uncertainty, it is possible to keep your current position, but you must demonstrate your worth. This is the time to showcase your accomplishments and demonstrate that you are a vital contributor to the company’s future success.

For those who do fall victim to job cuts, do not despair. There are still plenty of opportunities out there, but they require digging and utilizing everyone in your social and professional network. This is not the type of job market where you can simply sit at the computer responding to online job ads.

How To Survive Mass Layoffs

Align individual and company goals.
· Evaluate your company’s goals and identify the similarities and differences in comparison to your personal career objectives. Look to bridge the gap in differences by attending meetings and company-offered development courses. This illustrates your willingness to be onboard with the company’s future plans.

Take initiative and stay busy.
· Volunteer for challenging tasks and exhibit a take-charge attitude. By assuming additional responsibilities, you demonstrate how you can increase value for the corporation.

Be a “changemaker.”
· Employers want workers who identify problems and devise innovative solutions. By increasing your recognition as a problem solver, you can secure your reputation as an indispensable employee.

Be visible.
· With increasingly heavy workloads, arriving early and staying late to complete projects showcases your dedication to get the job done. Get on projects that show off your talents and demonstrate your commitment to the team.

Discover ways to save money.
· Find ways to increase efficiency and performance while decreasing costs. This is especially important in a time when employers are looking for ways to reduce spending. You will be making a significant contribution to the organization’s profitability.

How To Rebound From A Job Loss

Assess your experience.
· Evaluate why you were let go or why this position was not right for you. Use this information as a starting point for discovering your next career path.

Make a plan.
· Research industries with worker shortages or projected job growth. Find out how you can break into these job sectors. Make a list of accomplishments from past positions to identify your strengths. Update your resume and brush up on your interviewing techniques.

Rev up your skills.
· Build upon your established skill set. Explore online courses and local certificate programs to broaden your industry knowledge, increasing your marketability to a variety of employers.

Get networked.
· Expand your professional network. Start reaching out to people you have met through professional associations and let them know you are interested in new career opportunities. Start a personal website or join LinkedIn to reach a wider audience. Join a professional association within your industry.

Stay positive and be patient.
· Job searches are never easy, but it can be particularly daunting in a downturn economy. By maintaining a positive attitude and exhibiting patience, you can overcome the emotional barriers that could lengthen your search. Even in tough economic times, job opportunities are out there.

job cut chart © Challenger and Gray

John A. Challenger John A. Challenger is chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., the global outplacement consultancy that pioneered outplacement as an employer-paid benefit in the 1960s. Challenger is a recognized thought leader on workplace, labor, and economic issues.

Heavy job cutting expected into first quarter of 2009 © 2008, Challenger, Gray & Christmas;

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