September Layoffs Surge On Bank, Military Cuts

Employers announced plans to shed 115,730 workers from their payrolls in September, making it the worst job-cut month in over two years.  Heavy reductions planned by the military accounted for a large portion of September job cuts, signaling what may lie ahead as the federal government seeks across-the-board cuts in spending.

September job cuts were 126 percent higher than the 51,114 announced in August, according to the latest report on monthly job cuts released Wednesday by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.  They were 212 percent higher than September 2010, when employers announced just 37,151 job cuts.  Last month’s total is the highest since April 2009, when 132,590 job cuts were announced.

The September surge brought the number of job cuts announced in the third quarter to 233,258, the highest quarterly toll since the third quarter of 2009.  That figure is up 103 percent from the previous quarter and 105 percent higher than the same quarter a year ago.

To date, U.S.-based employers have announced 479,064 planned layoffs in 2011, a 16.5 percent jump from the same point last year, when job cuts totaled 411,272.

One-third of the layoffs announced this year came from government employers.  It is, by far, the largest job-cutting sector, with 159,588 announced job cuts to date.  This figure includes 54,182 government-sector cuts in September, 50,000 of which are the result of a five-year troop reduction plan announced by the United States Army.

The second largest job-cutting sector to date is the financial sector, which announced 54,013 planned layoffs between January 1 and the end of September.  That is up 177 percent from the 19,474 job cuts recorded over the first three quarters of 2010.  Of the 54,013 financial job cuts this year, 31,167 occurred in September, with 30,000 resulting from Bank of America’s multi-year workforce reduction plan aimed at saving the struggling bank $5 billion per year.

“It would be easy to look at the September job-cut figure alongside some of the other less-than-stellar economic news that has been reported lately and draw the conclusion that the economy is indeed headed for a double dip.  However, it is important to keep in mind that 80,000 cuts, or nearly 70 percent of last month’s total, came from just two organizations: Bank of America and the United States Army,” saidJohn A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“Neither of these cuts is directly related to recent softness in the economy.   The Bank of America cuts are the result of continued fallout from the housing market collapse and restructuring effort to remake the bank into a smaller, more nimble institution.   The military cuts are the result of drawing down forces in two wars and cost-cutting efforts in all areas of the federal government,” he added.

“That being said, both could definitely be a sign of more cuts to come.  Bank of America is not the only bank still struggling in the wake of the housing collapse.  And, the military cutbacks are probably just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to federal spending cuts and layoffs,” Challenger noted.

While the U.S. Army is not a traditional employer, its announcement was very corporate-like in that plans to achieve the reductions “using voluntary and involuntary separations and is considering buyouts, reductions in high-year tenure limits and early retirement boards,” according to an Army Times article, which quoted Army Service Personnel Chief Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick.

Last month’s Army cuts represent the second such military personnel reduction announced in as many months.  In August, 17,500 military personnel cuts were announced by the Army, Air Force and Navy.

“As officers, soldiers and even civilian personnel get displaced from the military, they face special challenges when making the transition to the traditional job market.  Perhaps the biggest challenge is taking the often specialized skills and experience gained in the military and translating it to the private sector,” said Challenger.

“The other big obstacle is the fact that many of these individuals entered the military straight out of high school or college and the entire job-search process, from resume writing to interviewing strategy, is completely foreign to them.  For these reasons, many former soldiers struggle to find their way in the job market.”

According to the latest employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10.1 percent of military veterans 18 years and older were unemployed in August.  Unemployment among veterans of the current wars inIraqandAfghanistanstood at 16.6 percent.

“Given the opportunity, former military typically prove themselves to be ideal employees.  They tend to be more loyal, more disciplined and are better at most when it comes to thinking on their feet.  President Obama is definitely taking a step in the right direction by providing tax incentives to employers that open their recruiting doors a little wider for veterans,” said Challenger.

“Other steps that could be taken include increased education for both employers as well as job-seeking veterans on how the skills and experience gained in service translate to the non-military workforce.  It may also be necessary to retrain those exiting military service for occupations that are in demand.  Lastly, military personnel impacted by separations could be provided with some basic job-search training on such areas as preparing a resume, networking strategies, interviewing techniques, etc.,” he said.

The heavy cuts announced by the Army and Bank of America were, at least, partially offset last month by heavy seasonal hiring plans announced by several retailers.  It was reported last month that retailersHalloweenCityandPartyCitywould hire 12,000 and 14,000 workers, respectively, to handle the flood of Halloween costume and decoration shoppers.  Meanwhile, toy retailer Toys “R” Us said it would be hiring about the same number of holiday workers as last year, which was around 40,000.  In all, employers announced plans to hire 76,551 workers during September.

“October is the prime month for seasonal worker hiring.  Those hoping to take advantage of the hiring surge should be out there seeing employers now.  Job seekers should not overlook smaller mom-and-pop stores, restaurants, movie theaters and other entertainment venues.  We expect seasonal hiring to be about the same as last year, when more than 600,000 holiday workers were added to retail payrolls between October and December,” said Challenger.

Download the full report HERE.

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