From 24/7 Wall St.: Financial markets have been reeling as investors grow more concerned about the economy: An S&P downgrade of the full faith and credit of the United States, dismal GDP data, and ongoing weak employment data trends are just some of the issues contributing to the recent turmoil. What has so far received very little attention in 2011 are the incidents of corporate layoff announcements, especially this summer.
The announcements are almost always tied to restructuring of companies, but you can’t have that many big companies simultaneously hiding behind this excuse. What is obvious as a sore thumb is that the weak economy is continuing to hurt business fundamentals, forcing companies to pare down their head counts. Economists also know that there is a difference between furloughs and layoffs. Layoffs generally imply that businesses are anticipating a longer period of slowness. When you see this many layoffs at this many companies at once, the obvious answer is that a system wide weakness is not just present — it is building.
This trend comes at a time when corporate balance sheets are stronger than ever, with many buying back stock and increasing dividends. Interest rates are close to record lows again. The gridlock over the debt ceiling and budget deficits further motivated companies to sit back and not hire. The growing sense is that the new round of layoffs at the major companies may be followed by more layoffs at rival companies.
How long can that last if the economy keeps sliding? From Borders to Research In Motion, to Cisco, pharmaceutical companies, banks, and Wall Street firms — all are getting pushed out the door. Meanwhile, economic indicators are getting worse rather than better. If the numbers get any softer, don’t be surprised by more layoff announcements. At a minimum, this will keep the larger corporate employers from having to make new hires.
Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Here are the layoff kings of 2011 by number of layoffs according to 24/7 Wall St: