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February job numbers suggest market hit bottom


By Brian Sullivan

(IDG) -- Job cuts fell to their lowest point in the past eight months and at least one employment expert said the numbers might be another indication that the recession is receding. INFOCENTER
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According to information collected by Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas Inc. U.S. employers said they would cut 128,115 jobs in February, down 40 percent from the 212,704 cuts that were announced in January.

"Well, I think that it does suggest that we are off the bottom," John A. Challenger, the firm's CEO, said Tuesday. "The job cuts have finally pulled back from the fever pitch that they had been running at since 9/11."

However, he noted the number of jobs eliminated was still more than the 101,731 cuts in February of last year.

Challenger said that for IT workers in general, the news was good, but for those who work in the telecom sector he was not so optimistic.

Of the 128,115 cuts announced in February, telecom companies led the way with 60,000.

That figure doesn't include the 10,000 that were announced yesterday by Verizon Communications, he said.

Challenger said he believes the troubles in the telecom industry will continue and that the industry as a whole still has a way to go before it stabilizes. He suggested that the current cuts can be traced back to the breakup of the Bell system in the mid-1980s.

"These are large bureaucratic companies that dominated the landscape for generations," he said. They still have to shed some of that bureaucracy before the layoffs abate, he added.

The good news, Challenger said, is that the dot-com and e-commerce companies seem to have achieved what the telecom companies have not -- shedding the excess of the bubble era.

Other information contained in Challenger's report included:

February was the 14th time in 15 months that planned job cuts exceeded 100,000. May 2001 was the only exception with 80,140.

The first two months of this year saw 340,819 cuts, a 40 percent increase over the first two months of 2001, which had 243,939.

Prior to December 2000, job cuts surpassed 100,000 only four times since 1993.

Challenger said the information in the job cut index is gathered from announcements companies make regarding planned and actual cuts, including press releases, 10-Q filings with the federal government and news reports.


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