Job cuts at highest level since '02

Planned payroll reductions surge 61% in November, according to an outplacement firm.

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By Jessica Dickler, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Jobs took another painful hit in November, with planned cuts rising to the highest level in seven years, according to a report released Wednesday by an outplacement firm.

Job cut announcements by U.S. employers soared to 181,671 last month, up 61% from October's 112,884 cuts, and 148% higher than the same period a year ago, when 73,140 job cuts were announced, according to the report by Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

November's total represents the second highest on record, shy of the 248,475 planned layoffs in January 2002, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Financial and retail industries were hit the hardest, Challenger said. Citigroup's plans to cut its staff levels by more than 50,000 brought the financial sector's announced job cuts to 91,356 last month. The financial industry has announced 220,506 job cuts so far in 2008, representing 21% of all layoffs this year.

Retailers added another 11,000 cuts in November, ahead of the holiday season.

Of the 25 industry categories that the Challenger report tracks, 12 reported higher job cuts in November compared to the previous month. Nine industries announced hiring plans, led by energy, industrial goods and construction.

Challenger said November's numbers bring the total of planned job cuts to 1,057,645 for 2008 to date, surpassing 1 million for the first time since 2005.

Separately, payroll manager ADP said Wednesday that the private sector lost a seasonally adjusted 250,000 jobs last month - worse than expected and the largest decrease since November 2002.

The reports set the tone for another dismal employment report expected from the Department of Labor on Friday. That report is expected to show that 325,000 jobs were lost in November, and that the unemployment rate grew to 6.8% from 6.5% a month earlier, according to a consensus of economists surveyed by Briefing.com.

The outlook for the current month isn't any brighter.

"The spirit of the holidays will not preclude further job-cutting if economic conditions continue to deteriorate," said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "In fact, December has historically been among the larger job-cut months of the year, with many employers making last-minute staffing adjustments to meet year-end earnings goals." To top of page

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