Uncle Sam Leads The Pack In Job Cutting - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Uncle Sam Leads The Pack In Job Cutting

MSNBC.COM - Staff reductions. Job cuts. Layoffs. Right-sizing. Restructuring.

Euphemisms for firing workers have become painfully commonplace in recent years, as all sorts of employers have eliminated jobs to deal with the recession and weak economic recovery.

Plenty of big companies have led the way with massive layoffs, but the organization that has announced the largest reductions over the past five years may surprise you. It's Uncle Sam.

Msnbc.com asked outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas to compile a list of the employers that have publicly announced the most job cuts from the beginning of 2007 through the end of 2011. Challenger relies on public announcements and news reports to compile its data and checks those against government-mandated layoff notices when available.

The U.S. government topped the list with 112,800 job cuts announced over the past five years, mainly at the U.S. Postal Service and in the defense sector.

The government tops the list in part because it's the nation's largest employer. The government employed about 2.8 million workers as of January, so the announced job cuts would have amounted to only about 4 percent of the total.

Despite those announced job cuts, total federal employment is about the same today as it was in 2007. Employment did increase in 2010 and then fell again, possibly a result of the decennial census.

At the Postal Service, the story is different. Postal Service employment has dropped by 148,000 over five years to the current  618,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Post Office's woes come down to two words:

"The Internet," said Mike Montgomery, an economist with IHS Global Insight who watches employment trends closely.

Thanks to the Web, billions of bills, letters and other correspondence that once flowed through the Postal Service are now being sent electronically, leading to billions of dollars in losses. The post office has said the job cuts have helped save some money.

The Department of Defense also is girding for big changes as it works to withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Defense spending may be cut by as much as $487 billion over 10 years.

Even if you don't want to work for the Post Office or Defense Department, the prospect of making a career with the federal government may be waning. The Labor Department projects that federal government employment will shrink by 372,000 jobs by 2020.

"There aren't a lot of places where either Congress or the White House wants to spend more money on payroll," said Montgomery, of IHS Global Insight,.

That's a remarkable turnaround from past years, said John Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

"Government was the last bastion of job security," he said.

After the government, General Motors is No. 2 on the list of employers that have announced the most job cuts in the past five years, according to Challenger.

Note: The number of job cuts announced is rarely the same as the number of jobs actually eliminated. Companies may end up firing workers in some divisions but hiring workers elsewhere. Fortunes shift, and plans can change. But announced job cuts usually lead to real pain. click here to view the top 10

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