For government workers and financial sector employees, last year was a particularly bad one -- and 2012 likely won't be much better.
More jobs were lost in the government sector than any other industry in 2011, according to a report released Thursday from outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas. The financial industry came in second place, followed by the retail sector.
All in all, job cuts rose 14 percent in 2011, topping more than 600,000 by year's end. It's perhaps the last piece of bad news to come out of a year in which unemployment remained high, poverty grew more widespread and the economy came close to sliding back into a full-fledged recession.
Government alone cut 183,064 jobs in 2011, the most in nine years, according to the Challenger report. Those layoffs accounted for 30 percent of the year's 606,082 total job cuts.
Meanwhile, the financial industry laid off 63,624 people for the year, or about 10.4 percent of the overall number. Together, job cuts in government and finance represented almost 41 percent of all layoffs in 2011.
For anyone paying attention to Washington or Wall Street in recent months, these numbers likely won't come as a surprise. As tax revenues dwindle and deficits continue to swell, state and local governments are in full cost-cutting mode, letting workers go at every opportunity in an attempt to bring public debts under control. Slashed government budgets have also resulted in a wave of layoffs in associated industries, like aerospace and energy.
Wall Street, meanwhile, has had a rocky year, with financial companies jettisoning employees -- often by the thousands, and often very young ones -- against a backdrop of eurozone anxiety and worldwide populist resentment.
Layoffs were also high in the retail sector, which shed 50,946 jobs for the year. With millions of Americans out of work and millions more earning just enough to cover basic expenses -- and often not even that -- the retail industry is in a position of unique vulnerability at the moment.
Job cuts were up 14 percent between 2011 and 2010, according to the Challenger report, though it notes that when compared to some other years of the past decade -- such as 2001, when the Sept. 11 attacks hastened a contraction that was already in progress, or 2008, when the financial system stumbled and credit markets abruptly seized up -- both 2010 and 2011 actually saw relatively few layoffs took place.
Challenger Gray analysts have previously said that no part of the federal government can expect immunity from layoffs in 2012, even traditionally safe sectors like intelligence and defense. Indeed, President Obama is expected to address the Pentagon Thursday to discuss the logistics of paring back the Pentagon budget. Also of particular concern is the U.S. Postal Service, which could lose as many as 120,000 workers in the coming year, according to Challenger.