Job cuts flat in November but totals eclipse last year's levels

"The drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq are likely to result in further personnel reductions.” 

November job cuts were once again dominated by government sector job-cut announcements, which totaled 18,508, or 44 percent of all job cuts during the month. 

It is the eighth time this year that this sector led all others in monthly job cuts.  

Of those government job cuts announced last month, 13,500 were the result of civilian workforce cuts made by the Air Force.

For the year, government agencies have now announced 180,881 job cuts, 30 percent more than the 138,979 job cuts announced through November 2010. 

“Over the past six months, we definitely have seen a shift away from the heavy government job cuts at the state and local level toward increased job cuts at the federal level," Challenger said.  

"The worst may be yet to come, as cutbacks spread from the military to every other agency in Washington," he said "The United States Post Office alone could see workforce reductions affecting 200,000 employees."

Overall, November job cuts were down 13 percent from the same month a year ago, when employers announced plans to cut 48,711 jobs from their payrolls. 

The sector still at risk for heavy downsizing activity is the financial services industry.  

Financial firms announced just 1,681 job cuts in November, bringing the year-to-date total for the sector to 56,191, which is up 162 percent from 21,430 financial cuts by this point a year ago.

“Job cuts in the financial sector are still well below the recession high of 260,110, which was the year-end total in 2008," Challenger said. "However, even as other sectors begin to enjoy the fruits of the recovery, these firms remain on very thin ice."

After the second-ranked financial sector, retail is the next largest job-cutting sector this year, with 48,338 announced layoffs to date, up from 33,814 a year ago. These employers announced 2,285 job cuts in November, down from 4,264 the previous month. 

“The end of the year is typically when we see much lower retail downsizing, since this is when these businesses are actually hiring in droves, as they bulk up their staffs for the holiday season," Challenger said. "We are expecting holiday retail hiring to be about the same as a year ago, when employment in the sector grew by about 627,000."

According to the National Retail Federation, brick-and-mortar retail stores saw a 7 percent increase in Black Friday sales, which hit a record high $11.4 billion.  

Meanwhile, IBM reported that the average amount of money spent per consumer on Cyber Monday increased a whopping 33 percent.