Even as outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas was issuing an optimistic jobs cuts report for October, companies across the United States were announcing new layoffs of at least 15,000 workers.
Thursday Chrysler announced it would cut shifts at five plants and idle 11,000 employees in the coming months while dropping four car models. Insurance and HR consulting firm AON, meanwhile reported plans to cut 2,700 jobs. Even the NYMEX, formerly the New York Mercantile Exchange, said it would let 120 employees go.
John Challenger, CEO of CG&C, shrugged off the coincidence explaining that the first of the month, especially as the end of the year approaches, is often a time when companies announce layoffs. Before he backs off from the cautious optimism in the report showing layoff announcements dropping 12 percent in October, Challenger tells us he would “wait to see what happens in the rest of November.”
The report issued monthly by the company since 1993 says “planned job cuts announced by employers fell for the second consecutive month in October to 63,114, down 12 percent from 71,739 job cuts in September.” Overall, the number of announced job losses since January are running 8.1 percent lower than for the same 10-month period in 2006.
While that is certainly good news, Challenger worries the troubles in the housing and finance sectors could infect the rest of the economy. Rising gas prices and the drop in the value of the dollar, he says, are among the “serious (other) issues out there that could turn the economy into a tailspin.”
There is some evidence the economy might be dodging the bullets. The Conference Board, which monthly tracks consumer confidence has reported only a small decline since September, though the confidence level has dropped 11 percent since July. The Monster Employment Index, at 188, is only a point beneath its all-time high. New jobs being advertised online in October stood at 2.875 million, just slightly below the 2.93 million coming online in September.
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Friday morning the Bureau of Labor Statistics will issue its October employment report showing how many jobs were created during the month and offering a snapshot of employment by industry.
While economists are uncertain where the economy is headed – Edward Leamer, director of the economic forecasting center at the University of California at Los Angeles, said the economy is not headed into recession despite the housing market, while Harvard economist Martin Feldstein believes it will take deep cuts in interest rates to prevent it – recruiters and hiring managers will continue to face a competitive marketplace.
Some recruiters, particularly those in construction and finance where the layoffs his company reports on have been the largest, may find it easier to fill reqs Challenger agrees. In other areas, recruiting will be as tough as it has ever been.
Says Steve Pogorzelski, Monster’s executive vice president, “The Monster Employment Index’s rise in October is an encouraging sign of continued stability in nationwide employer demand for workers, despite a moderating U.S. economy and the turmoil caused by the housing and credit markets…the labor market remains historically tight with shortages of highly skilled workers driving much of the current online recruiting efforts.”