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By Thomas C. Frohlich
March 3, 2015

Planned job cuts among U.S. companies in 2014 totaled 450,531 through November, down 5.8% compared to the same period in 2013. According to global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, this was the lowest count of year-end job cut announcements since 1997.

No company announced more layoffs in 2014 than Hewlett Packard (NYSE: HPQ), which announced a total of 21,000 job cuts. Based on data from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the companies that planned the most job cuts last year.

Click here to see the companies cutting the most jobs.

In some cases, companies shed jobs in an effort to return to profitability or because they become insolvent. However, in an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John Challenger explained that this is not the case for most companies. Particularly in a strong economy, many companies are “doing regular strategic evaluation of their business looking for areas of redundancy, [and] looking for ways to make their organization a tighter ship.”

Technology companies were the largest downsizers last year with several long-time stalwarts leading the way. Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), and Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) announced the most job cuts, not only among tech companies, but also overall. The industry as a whole announced more than 58,000 job cuts in 2014, the highest number among all industries. According to Challenger, “technology is a particularly volatile sector in our economy [because] products become obsolete more quickly than they do in some other industries that are slower, safer, and have less opportunity.”

The industry with the second largest planned layoffs in 2014 was retail, with nearly 42,000 job cuts announced. This figure is actually down from 2013, despite layoffs at Sears (NASDAQ: SHLD), as well as Coldwater Creek, which declared bankruptcy in April. Financial companies, too, were among the top companies cutting jobs. JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM), for example, was among the 10 companies with the most planned layoffs in 2014.

One factor that often drives job cuts is industry evolution. According to Challenger, this is especially true in the retail sector. “It’s an area of low margins and fierce competition and technology is making a big difference in how consumers are coming to stores,” Challenger said. Retailers are making cuts, he explained, as a result of the changing retail landscape, especially the fact that more shopping is done online.

Other companies cut jobs in an effort to continue to stay competitive. Shareholders invest in companies that they hope will generate higher returns than other companies. In order to provide such returns, companies often restructure their operations to trim costs and increase profits, which can lead to layoffs. Sears Holdings, which has been reporting declining sales and consistent losses in recent years, is undergoing one of the most dramatic such restructurings. CEO Eddie Lampert set up a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) to buy Sears stores and lease them back to the company and others. This raised the company’s stock price considerably despite the fact Sears is still losing money.

In some cases, the companies that announced layoffs truly had no choice. For example, Coldwater Creek had to close all of its stores after filing for bankruptcy protection. Not only were shareholders wiped out in the bankruptcy, but also the company had to close all of its stores in order to pay off its creditors, eliminating thousands of jobs in the process.

Challenger Gray & Christmas provided 24/7 Wall St. with all job cut announcements affecting at least 500 positions through 2015. 24/7 Wall St. combined the planned cuts by company to identify the companies that announced the most job cuts last year. We only considered publicly traded American companies. However, job cuts did not need to be entirely within the United States. Some cuts announced last year may not be completed until later this year. Consolidated revenues and employee totals are from each company’s most recent financial report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. If the company did not disclose global headcount for the quarter, figures from its last annual report were used. We relied in part on our previous analysis of Challenger Grey & Christmas data published September 25th. To the extent layoff figures were unchanged from that period, discussions of companies that also appeared in our earlier article were kept the same.

These are the 10 companies cutting the most jobs.

10. Amgen Inc.
> Job cuts: 4,000
> Number of employees: 18,000
> 1yr. share price change: +27.28%

In recent years, biotechnology company Amgen has reduced its global workforce as part of its restructuring plan to focus on drug development. While layoffs in the technology sector more than doubled between the first halves of 2013 and 2014, job cuts in the pharmaceutical industry declined in that time, falling by 15.4%. Despite the industry trend, the company announced in August it would cut 2,900 employees. In October, Amgen announced it would close a research and development facility in Seattle that would result in an additional 1,100 job cuts, bringing the 2014 total to about 4,000. The restructuring plan will reduce the company’s workforce by up to 15% and includes the closure of several facilities in Washington and Colorado. Amgen reported strong earnings in 2013 and in 2014. According to the company, the layoffs are “natural steps in a long-term strategy.”

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9. Procter & Gamble
> Job cuts: 4,430
> Number of employees: 118,000
> 1yr. share price change: +11.72%

Procter & Gamble announced in early November it would cut 4,430 jobs, the ninth highest number of announced job cuts reviewed. Last year marks the fourth consecutive year the consumer products company has reduced its total workforce. As of 2014, there were 118,000 Procter & Gamble employees, versus 132,000 in 2009. As is the case with many other companies, cost-cutting measures such as layoffs are often part of a strategy to maintain consistent income growth. P&G’s net sales have grown each year since as early as 2012. The company reported net sales of $83.1 billion in the 12 months prior to June 2014. In addition to slashing employment, P&G also announced in August that it would eliminate as many as 100 underperforming brands to further improve results.

8. Sprint Corp.
> Job cuts: 5,000
> Number of employees: 36,000
> 1yr. share price change: -40.27%

Sprint Corporation, one of the nation’s largest cellphone carriers, stated at the end of October it would lay off 5,000 workers for restructuring purposes. Earlier that month Sprint cut 452 jobs at its headquarters in Kansas. Sprint had 36,000 employees at the end of 2014, down from the approximately 38,000 employees it had the year before. Despite the layoffs, Sprint may roughly double its store count in a deal with RadioShack, which recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. If the deal is finalized, Sprint would operate as a store-within-a-store in nearly 2,000 RadioShacks.

7. Intel Corp.
> Job cuts: 5,350
> Number of employees: 106,700
> 1yr. share price change: +35.66%

At the start of 2014, after poor earnings and growth forecasts, Intel announced it would implement cost cutting measures. Part of the measures included plans to reduce its global workforce by 5,350 people, or 5% of its headcount, throughout the year. According to Intel spokesperson Chris Kraeuter, the cuts would primarily consist of “people retiring, redeploying, or leaving voluntarily.” In addition, the chip maker announced in April that it was shutting down its assembly and test operations in Costa Rica. While this eliminated 1,500 jobs, Intel continued to employ more than 1,000 engineering, finance, and human resources workers in the country.

6. Sears Holdings
> Job cuts: 5,400
> Number of employees: 249,000
> 1yr. share price change: -9.32%

While layoffs are not always a sign of weak revenue, retail holding company Sears has been closing stores and shedding employees for years as a result of faltering sales. The company reported revenue of $36.2 billion for the 12 months through February 1, 2014, down by more than $3.6 billion from the previous period. According to Challenger, Gray, & Christmas, Sears announced in October 5,400 job cuts, the sixth largest compared with other U.S. public companies. However, Sears is closing stores so fast that it may be difficult to keep track. In 2014, the company closed 235 stores, most of which were Kmart locations. The layoffs were announced at a time when most retailers were hiring workers for the holiday season. As of the beginning of 2014, Sears had roughly 226,000 U.S. employees, including part-time workers.

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5. Coldwater Creek
> Job cuts: 5,500
> Number of employees: N/A
> 1yr. share price change: -92.84%

Women’s apparel retailer Coldwater Creek filed for bankruptcy in April after it was unable to find a buyer for its operations. Shareholders in the company were wiped out as the company began the process of closing its 350 stores and laying off its 5,500 workers. However, there may be a silver lining for at least a few employees. As part of bankruptcy proceedings, other retailers bought a number of Coldwater Creek’s leases. While most employees may be out of luck, customers may be able to soon buy Coldwater Creek merchandise again. Private equity firm Sycamore Partners bought the Coldwater Creek brand name. The new owner relaunched the brand as Coldwater Creek Direct, an online retailer that aims to sell women apparel via a catalog.

For the rest of the list, please go to 24/7WallStreet.com.

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