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Something Wrong? Layoffs Explode In America’s Big Old Tech

The employment situation in the US has been outright rosy. Initial unemployment claims have been bumping along near record lows. Whether or not companies are hiring, at least they’re not axing people in massive numbers. The unemployment rate of 5.8% is practically comfort inducing. OK, we can smell the odor of the details underneath, but hey. And for September, the Challenger Job Cut Report raved about 2014 being “on pace to be the lowest job-cut year since 1997.”

Got it. Things are good.

Then came October, and announced job cuts jumped 68% from September, and 12% from a year ago, to 51,183. Year to date, job-cut announcements of 414,591 were still down 4.3% from the same period last year. And just as we’re exhaling, we read in thereport that this “may mark the kick-off to a fourth-quarter surge in job cuts.” More pain? “It is not unusual to see the pace of downsizing accelerate in the final months of the year, as employers take measures to meet year-end earnings and profit goals.”

So companies are getting their announcements out of the way, including the charges that come with the layoffs – these pesky “one-time items” that keep recurring – so that analysts can focus on metrics they’re supposed to focus on, rather than actual earnings.

Biggest sinner? Retail, with 6,874 planned layoffs for the month, a big jump from September. For the year, announced job cuts were up 5%, to 38,948, following an ongoing epidemic of store closings, restructurings, and bankruptcies [read… What NCR just Said about the American Retail Quagmire].

But the trouble in retail pales compared to what’s going on at the paragon of corporate America, the brilliant hope for the future, the core of innovation: the tech industry. The report divides tech into three segments.

There’s the computer industry which includes permanent layoff queen HP; it layered another 5,000 job cuts on top of the 16,000 it had announced earlier in the year, and on top of the tens of thousands it had announced in prior years. The segment also includes Microsoft which is now implementing its own mega job cuts. In October, the segment announced 6,509 job cuts for a total so far this year of 55,511. That’s up 92% from a year ago!

The electronics industry – Cisco among them – announced 1,648 job cuts for the month, bringing them to 18,153 year-to-date. Up a stunning 136%!

The telecommunications industry – which includes money-losing Sprint, now 80% owned by SoftBank of Japan – announced 5,217 job cuts for the month, which brought the year-to-date total to 20,038. Up 81% from the same period last year.

All three tech segments combined clocked in with 13,374 job cuts in October and 93,702 for the year so far. Up 97% from the same period last year!

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