A round of more than 15,000 layoffs announced yesterday by AT&T Inc., DuPont and Viacom Inc. suggests a yearlong wave of job cuts is accelerating, just as the government is expected today to report a higher unemployment rate for November.
Swiss bank Credit Suisse Group also announced 5,300 job cuts, although it's unclear how many will be in the United States.
The latest layoffs coincided with a government report showing the proportion of workers' continuing to receive jobless benefits has matched a level last reached in September 1992. The deepening recession is pressuring companies to slash costs, and payroll is typically the quickest and most efficient way to do it.
Yesterday's announced job cuts spanned an array of economic sectors, hitting telecom workers, bankers, salespeople and chemical manufacturers. The breadth of the layoffs suggests that the pain of the recession will be felt broadly and well into 2009.
Dallas-based AT&T plans to cut 12,000 jobs, about 4 percent of its workforce. The nation's biggest telecommunications company said the job cuts will begin this month and continue throughout 2009.
Dupont will cut 2,500 jobs and cut back hours for remaining workers. It also plans to eliminate 4,000 contractors this month, with more contractor cuts in 2009.
New York-based media conglomerate Viacom will cut about 850 jobs, or 7 percent of its work force.
The layoffs announced yesterday follow others earlier this week. JPMorgan Chase & Co. said it plans to cut 9,200 positions at Washington Mutual, which it acquired. Jet-engine maker Pratt & Whitney, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp., laid off about 350 employees across the country Wednesday, the same day software maker Adobe Systems Inc. said that it will cut 600 jobs, or about 8 percent of its workforce.
"What we have seen is not just that the cuts are deep; it's that they are happening everywhere," said Andrew Gledhill, an economist with Moody's Economy. com. "It just tells you that there are very few people in any industry who can say, 'I feel safe.' "
Growing job insecurity dampens the economy in ways that go beyond those laid off, Gledhill noted. Anxious families, even those with jobs, rein in their spending. Because consumer spending accounts for roughly 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, a pullback in spending typically leads companies to cut even more workers to trim costs. *