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March 31, 2011 Published in Business, Top Stories

March Job Cuts Decline Eighteen Percent

Staff Report

While government-sector job cuts rose to their highest level in 12 months, the pace of downsizing declined in March as employers announced plans to reduce payrolls by 41,528 jobs during the month, down 18 percent from 50,702 job cuts announced in February.

The report on March job-cut announcements released Wednesday by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. revealed that March job cuts were down 39 percent from a year ago, when employers announced 67,611 job cuts.

Overall, employers have announced 130,749 job cuts through the first quarter, 28 percent fewer than the 181,183 planned layoffs announced in the same period of 2010. The three-month tally is, in fact, the lowest first- quarter total since 1995, when employers announced 97,716 job cuts from January through March.

Once again, the public sector dominated monthly job cuts, accounting for 19,099 or 46 percent of all March layoffs. The 19,099 planned job cuts announced by government and non-profit organizations increased 17 percent from 16,380 in February. It is the highest monthly total for this sector since March 2010, when it reached 50,604.

While its comforting private sector job creation appears poised to make further gains in March, the public sector continues to bleed,” said U.S. Representative Jim Moran (D-Va.) “This job loss threatens our economic recovery, affecting families facing a loss of income and the businesses, both small and large that provides them with goods and services, be it restaurants, retail stores or automotive dealers.

This is the biggest underreported threat to our economy. As federal stimulus funding runs dry, state and local governments are forced to make drastic cuts. One particularly troubling example is that in the last 18 months, 200,000 teachers were let go while student enrollment increased by 750,000,” Moran said.

If there is any silver lining in the government layoff figures, it is that they are down significantly from a year ago. The March figure is 62 percent lower than a year earlier and the 41,929 job cuts in the sector through the first three months of the year is 33 percent lower than the 62,700 government layoffs announced in the first quarter of 2010.

Despite the decline from last year, it is difficult to be optimistic about the outlook for government workers. Most cities and states have only just begun to address their massive budget deficits and we have yet to see how budget cutbacks are going to impact workers at the federal level,” said Rick Cobb, executive vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The good news is that other areas of the economy appear to have stabilized in terms of downsizing activity. The sectors that had the heaviest job losses at this point a year ago have seen significantly fewer layoffs,” said Cobb. Job cuts in the pharmaceutical industry have fallen 87 percent from 26,165 job cuts a year ago to 3,385 this year. Automotive job cuts, which totaled 7,728 at this point last year, are down 53 percent to 3,668. Job cuts in the telecommunications sector are down 69 percent from 14,795 to 4,552.

The hope is that a few months of even slightly stronger hiring in the private sector will tip the scales toward accelerated job creation. Employers are watching the labor market closely and if it starts to look like the talent pool is getting shallower, then they could be compelled to increase the rate of hiring,” said Cobb.

In addition to the loss of public sector jobs, Moran expressed concern about the impact of a possible federal government shut-down if Congress cannot agree on a spending bill by April, 8. “The x-factor, particularly for Northern Virginia, is what a sustained federal government shutdown means for our country and our region. It’s an abdication of lawmakers’ responsibility to allow a shutdown and I will continue fighting to prevent it,” he said.

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