Those were the latest in a series of recent cutbacks that have erased any doubt that media and entertainment firms are as vulnerable as any company in the U.S. The first weeks of 2009 have also brought pink slips at Time Warner's Warner Bros. and AOL units, Clear Channel Communications and others. Walt Disney Co. CEO Robert Iger said Tuesday that the entertainment powerhouse is also looking at "very significant" cost cuts, including layoffs.
Adding to the grim picture is word that overall job cuts in the U.S. soared to a seven-year high in January, according to a report from global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
Announced media layoffs for the first month of the year came in at 4,446, up from the already-elevated 4,283 reported for the same month last year, according to Challenger. In 2007, January media layoffs amounted to 2,155; in 2006, they were 1,134.
Last year, corporate America laid off the most employees since 2003, while the media sector eliminated folks at the highest rate since 2001. Media cuts for 2008 amounted to 28,083, the highest since 43,420 pink slips in 2001, when the Internet bubble burst.
January often ranks as the year's heaviest for layoffs as companies start the year by further right-sizing their operations. Nationally, Challenger said record downsizing in the retail sector helped push the number of planned job cuts announced in January to 241,749, the worst month since January 2002, when job cuts reached a record 248,475. Those also marked a 45% increase from December.