Layoffs numbers bode ominously

Economic uncertainty isn't the friend of the American worker.

Not to rain on the market’s “Big Wednesday” parade, but the pulse is down today on news that more American workers will be laid off this year than last.

According to a press release from Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., employers have already announced more than 564,000 planned layoffs for 2011. That bests last year’s total by 35,000 with a month still to go in 2011.

While employers announced fewer job cuts in November than last month (down only 0.7 percent from 42,759 in October 2011 to 42,474 in November 2011), employees of the federal government are the ones facing the axe in droves lately. More than 18,000 of November’s layoffs came from the capital, including 13,500 members of the U.S. Air Force.

“Over the past six months, we definitely have seen a shift away from the heavy government job cuts at the state and local level toward increased job cuts at the federal level,” says Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John Challenger. “The worst may be yet to come, as cutbacks spread from the military to every other agency in Washington. They will all be targets for cost cutting. The United States Post Office alone could see workforce reductions affecting 200,000 employees.”

Challenger’s report also announced that although employers planned to add 63,527 jobs in November, 55,000 of those are seasonal workers being hired temporarily by UPS. Grim prospects for anyone looking for work.

If the Congressional super committee’s failure to come to a bargain isn’t dealt with by Congress before automatic triggers cut $1.2 trillion from federal spending starting in 2013 (half of which will come from the military), today’s numbers could look like small potatoes.

About the author

Joel Patterson is the Associate Producer of Marketplace Money.

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