Every day we are bombarded by dire economic news. The most shocking headlines have come from the steady stream of reports on massive workforce layoffs in every industry imaginable, from media and financial services to manufacturing and technology. In fact, by the end of 2008, roughly 2 million workers had received pink slips from employers. By November, the national unemployment rate reached a 15-year high of 6.7%—African American unemployment stood at 11.2% —while the four-week average for job claims increased to more than 540,000, a level unmatched in 26 years. Among the hardest hit have been white-collar workers: Outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas found that in November, major corporations led by Citigroup and other financial service firms shed more than 181,000 employees, the greatest number of such workforce casualties in seven years.
Corporations, large and small, have not fared much better. According to figures released in December by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, business bankruptcy filings increased 49% during the federal government’s 2008 fiscal year, from 25,925 to 38,651. Small businesses, considered the engine of our economy, have been severely hampered by the ongoing credit crunch. And as leviathans, such as the Big Three automakers, remain trapped in an economic tailspin, their suppliers desperately seek to steer clear of the wreckage.
(Continued on next page)