- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 4, 2003

CHICAGO, March 4 (UPI) — U.S. businesses announced 138,177 job cuts in February, a 5 percent increase from January and up 8 percent from a year earlier, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., an international outplacement firm.

February marked the second consecutive month that corporations have announced they would lay off more workers than the previous month — and the highest monthly figure since 157,508 job cuts were announced in November.

Monthly job cuts averaged 98,957 between March and August 2002 but rose to an average of more than 139,000 a month since October.

Chief executive officer John Challenger said that it probably was not a coincidence that job cuts rose 151 percent in October when war talk began heating up in Washington.

"It is doubtful that a turnaround in hiring can be expected before fall," he said.

Government and non-profits announced 41,559 layoffs last month, computer firms pared 10,954 jobs, the service sector lost 10,513 positions, commodities 8,792 jobs, automotive 8,407, financial 7,428, electronics 7,395 and retail 6,976.

Employers have cut 3.45 million jobs since the recession began officially two years ago, the firm said in its monthly job-cut report. Chicago-based Challenger has tracked job losses on a daily basis since 1989.

"It looked as if job cuts were beginning to come back down to earth in the spring of 2002, after several months of heavy post-terrorist attacks downsizing," Challenger said. "However, it now appears that economic uncertainties and war talk have put the brakes on business spending plans and companies are once again in a serious cost-cutting mode."

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