Pharma layoffs plunge to just 308 in March

In a major turn-around from January and February, the pharmaceutical industry announced just 308 job cuts in March, falling to second place behind government for the most layoffs last month. That's a big change from earlier in the year, when the industry cut almost 26,000 jobs in just two months, according to outplacement consultancy firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. And while that doesn't sound good, it's still a drastic improvement over the Q1 2009 when 48,885 pharma jobs were eliminated.

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas

Pharma got off to a quick start in 2010 as the industry's biggest players--Pfizer, Wyeth, Merck, Schering-Plough, and Roche--integrated the major buyouts they made in 2009. That led to a reported 25,875 job cuts in just two months, putting Pharma in the top spot for most layoffs. But those companies finished their cost-cutting, and the industry's numbers plummeted last month.

Overall, the pace of downsizing is well below last year's levels, dropping 55 percent from the same month a year ago. In fact, first quarter layoff totals are the lowest since 2000. Government wrestled the top job-cut spot from Pharma; March job cuts were dominated by planned reductions on government payrolls, which totaled 50,604 or nearly 75 percent of all planned layoffs announced during the month. 

"Most industries have seen sharp declines in the number of layoffs this year, compared to the beginning of last year. The first quarter of 2009 really marked the peak of downsizing for this recession," says John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

- here's the Challenger, Gray and Christmas release