CHICAGO -- The number of planned job cuts by major U.S. businesses rose in March from a year earlier, a survey showed yesterday, climbing to the highest level in more than a year.
Planned cuts rose 33.9 percent last month to 50,182 from 37,486 during March 1996, according to the monthly survey by the employment firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas.
Compared to a month earlier, planned dismissals increased 24 percent from 40,480 in February. Last month's total was the highest since 97,379 job cuts announced in January 1996.
"The real March madness took place in the corporate arena as employers, scrambling to control wage inflation, cut 2,281 employees per day," the firm said.
Among the industries showing the largest increases in planned job cuts from a year earlier were computers, financial services and retailing.
On March 14, for example, Apple Computer Inc. said it would fire 4,100 workers, or 30 percent of its work force. The ailing personal computers maker said it has lost almost $1 billion in the past five quarters.
"Last month's figure may be evidence that the Federal Reserve Board may have jumped the gun in raising interest rates, perhaps not taking into full account the measures companies are taking to self-correct," said John Challenger, executive vice president of the firm.
Fed policy-makers raised the overnight bank lending rate a quarter point March 25 to 5.5 percent to brake the economy and prevent it from spurring higher inflation.
"Companies fear inflation as much, if not more than [Fed Chairman Alan] Greenspan, because they know if they try to pass on higher costs to customers they will be eaten alive by competition," Challenger said.
Pub Date: 4/09/97