Pharma had third-most layoffs in Jan 2012

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Dovetailing with AstraZeneca's announcement that it was slashing an additional 7,300 jobs worldwide, a report by outsourcing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas showed the pharmaceutical industry ranked third among the highest-layoff industries in January.

The 4,000 layoffs put the industry second to retail, which lost 12,400 jobs, and finance, which bled 7,611.

The entertainment and aerospace/defense sectors filled out the remaining spots among the top five most volatile industries, with 3,900 and 3,600 layoffs respectively.

January 2012 was particularly brutal. In addition to bleeding a total of 53,000 jobs, the January numbers are 39% higher than those of January 2011 and marked the biggest monthly job loss since September.

A relative bright spot was government, which continued to lose jobs, but at a slower rate than in previous months -- the slowest, in fact, for the past two years. According to the report, 6,450 government/non profit workers lost their jobs in January 2011, and 6,600 were pink-slipped in January 2010. This year it was 3,000.

John Challenger, CEO of Challenger Gray & Christmas said the January results do not mean other industries can relax. He noted that tightening budgets could force more government layoffs, and that it is just one month into the new year. October, according to the report, is generally the second highest month for layoffs.

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