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January job loss widespread

January-job-loss-widespread

Workers load materials at a Home Depot in Los Angeles. The firm is among many that laid off workers in January. Nationwide, 235,000 people lost jobs.

Damian Dovarganes / AP Enlarge

WASHINGTON - Employers took a large ax to their payrolls in January, the government said yesterday, and the cuts likely will get worse over the next few months.

The U.S. Labor Department reported that mass layoffs, or job cuts of 50 or more by a single employer, increased to 2,227 in January, up almost 50 percent from the same month last year. More than 235,000 workers were fired as a result of last month's cuts.

January was a bad month for the labor market. Firms from a wide range of sectors announced thousands of layoffs, including Home Depot Inc., Boeing Co., Pfizer Inc., and Caterpillar Inc.

Not all of those cuts were reflected in the government's mass layoffs report, which counts firings as reported by laid-off workers seeking unemployment benefits. Many of January layoffs will happen over time, meaning those mass layoff figures likely will keep increasing.

Mass layoffs rose sharply last year to more than 21,000, from about 15,000 in 2007, the department said in January. More than 2.1 million workers lost their jobs last year from those reductions.

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