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PwC lays off consultants from U.S. staff

The management consulting firm, which says it has not been hit that hard by the dot-com bust, lays off approximately 400 consultants, or roughly 3 percent of its U.S. staff.

Management consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers said Wednesday it laid off approximately 400 consultants, trimming roughly 3 percent of its U.S. staff.

Sehra Eusufzai, a PwC spokeswoman, said although the company is laying off some consultants, it expects to increase its work force throughout the year.

"Periodically, we align the skill sets of our work force with needs of our clients," she said.

The layoffs occurred during the first two weeks of this month and primarily affected consultants based in the eastern United States, Eusufzai said. New York-based PwC is offering employees outplacement assistance as well as severance packages.

Last July, PwC hired 1,800 consultants and intends to add anywhere from 2,500 consultants to 3,000 consultants for the remainder of its fiscal year ending June 30. PwC employs roughly 15,000 consultants in the United States and about 35,000 total consultants worldwide.

The move by PwC comes amid challenging times for the consulting industry overall.

Many consultancies, primarily PwC's smaller and newer counterparts in the Internet consulting industry, have been badly bruised by an overall market shift coupled with turbulent market conditions that have prompted many of them to cut their work forces. Internet consultancies, including iXL Enterprises, Scient, Viant and MarchFirst, which focus on providing clients help with Web development and devising their Internet strategies, have recently announced layoffs and restructuring plans as a way to cut costs.

PwC, which said it does not view the layoffs as a cost-cutting measure, also said it does not deny that a slowdown is evident in the consulting industry.

"We're not really impacted by the dot-com bust as some of our smaller competitors might be, but our clients, in general, are taking a longer look at how they want to spend their consulting money," Eusufzai said. "It's overall positive for us. We're still looking at net gains in our staffing numbers, not reductions."

A little over a year ago, PwC, like other traditional consultancies, had to eliminate certain positions in a push to focus on e-commerce services and consulting. At the time, giants in the industry including PwC, IBM Global Services, KPMG Consulting and others, were scrambling to shift their attention toward the Internet, working to nab more Web-related consulting projects.

PwC said it is now focusing on areas where it is winning more business such as customer relationship management software consulting, strategy-related consulting and Internet marketplaces.