Only a few months ago, it looked as if the downsizing trend afflicting employees of U.S. companies in recent years was finally starting to subside significantly. Now, with at&t's recent announcement that it is offering buyout packages to nearly 78,000 managers, that seems like a decidedly premature conclusion.

According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., which keeps tabs on layoff announcements by U.S. employers (the at&t announcement doesn't yet qualify because voluntary separations are not "layoffs"), some 41,335 job cutbacks were unveiled in October. While the total of 343,552 so far in 1995 is 25% below the first 10 months of 1994, the October tally marks a pickup since last summer and is the second-highest monthly level this year.

One sign that companies are still keen on keeping job rolls thin is a recent survey of 162 human-resources executives by consultants William M. Mercer Inc. Although two-thirds of the execs expect their businesses to grow next year and 37% expect hiring to pick up, almost an equal number, or 35%, foresee employment cuts.

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