New Record Could Be Set For Job Losses

Unemployment in the U.S. probably climbed in January to the highest level since 1992 and payrolls dropped for a 13th consecutive month as the recession showed no sign of abating. The jobless rate rose to 7.5 percent. Employers cut headcounts by 540,000 people, surpassing a half million for a third month.

Payrolls fell by 524,000 in December and 584,000 in November. It would be the first time since records began in 1939 that job cuts exceeded 500,000 in three consecutive months. The economy lost about 2.6 million jobs last year.

Manufacturers probably dismissed 145,000 workers last month. Caterpillar, the world’s largest maker of construction equipment said it plans to cut 2,110 workers in addition to the 20,000 reductions it reported earlier in the month.

Saks Inc., Target Corp., Starbucks Corp. and Home Depot Inc. last month reported plans to reduce workers. Others following suit in February include Macy’s. The second-largest U.S. department-store company said it will cut 7,000 jobs, eliminate executives’ merit increases for 2008, and trim its contribution to staff 401(k) retirement-savings plans. PNC Financial Services Group Inc. will reduce almost 10 percent of its workforce by 2011, and Estee Lauder Cos., the maker of Clinique and Bobbi Brown cosmetics, will slash 2,000 jobs over the next two years.

Government jobs are now also in jeopardy. The U.S. Postal Service plans to trim headcount through attrition and early retirement, and has asked lawmakers to allow it to reduce its six-days-a-week delivery schedule to pare expenses.

The Labor Department’s report is due at 8:30 a.m. Economists’ payroll estimates ranged from declines of 400,000 to 750,000. Unemployment forecasts ranged from 7.3 percent to 7.6 percent.