Only a few months ago, the long wave of downsizing plaguing U.S. labor markets seemed to be receding. Indeed, the consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. notes that the 113,393 planned layoffs announced in the first four months of 1995 were less than half the year-earlier total.

Since then, however, the tempo has changed appreciably. Challenger reports that corporate job-cut plans unveiled from May through August hit 155,450--some 15% above the same period in 1994. The pickup in cuts seems to stem from the resurgence in mergers, particularly in banking. And it could escalate dramatically. A survey of leading bankers projects that job cuts in the industry will average some 90,000 jobs annually until the year 2000.

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