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Asian flu leads to record layoffs

Job cuts in technology industries are far surpassing last year's figures--by twofold in most cases--according to a report released today.

Tech Industry

Job cuts in the computer, electronics, and telecommunications industries are far surpassing last year's figures--by twofold in most cases--as the impact of the Asian economic crisis hits, according to a report released today.

The U.S. electronics industry, which includes semiconductors, has issued 69,595 layoff notices since the start of the year through September 30, according to the report compiled by Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That's more than three times the 22,008 cuts announced for all last year.

In the computer industry, 44,035 cuts were announced during the first nine months of this year, up 47.7 percent from 1997, the report said. The telecommunications industry saw its ranks thinned by 28,934 jobs during the nine-month period, a huge jump from the 10,822 positions eliminated last year.

"International factors were cited [as the reason for the layoffs]. This was nonexistent a year ago," said John Challenger, executive vice president with Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "High tech is very vulnerable because of the large volume of goods and services sold overseas."

The electronics and computing industries suffered their greatest blows, for the most part, in June. But job cuts declined sequentially by half in each of the following two months, only to tick back up in September.

Some of the companies to announce layoffs last month include chipmaker Cirrus Logic, which said it would eliminate 500 positions, and graphics software maker Adobe Systems, which said it would cut 10 percent of its workforce of 3,000 due to a large drop in revenues from its Japan business.

One bright spot has been the telecommunications industry, which largely has dropped the pace of its job cuts since the start of the year. Since 18,077 telecom positions were cut in January, the rate has continued to fall. No job cuts were announced in September.

Telecommunications companies mainly serve local and long-distance customers, so the Asian economic crisis may be minimized for them, Challenger said. In absolute figures, however, the telecommunications took a large hit for the year, ranking fifth in layoffs among the top five industries.

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