Company Jobs laid off AT&T 40,000 Chemical/Chase Manhattan 12,000 GTE Corporation 17,000 IBM 60,000 Delta Air Lines 15,000 McDonnell Douglas 17,000 General Motors 74,000 Digital Equipment 20,000 Sears, Roebuck & Co. 50,000 Philip Morris 14,000 Boeing 28,000 Nynex 16,800 Scott Paper 11,000
In past decades, such massive layoffs would indicate the company
was in trouble. Not so anymore. Investors and stockholders on Wall Street
actually see mass layoffs as a sign of increased efficiency and greater
profits; stocks surprisingly soar after mass firings. This is something
very new to the American experience.
And it also raises a dilemma. How does America respond to an increasingly automated and electronic economy? If humans transfer the workload to machines, then humans are no longer working and receiving the paychecks they need to survive. If humans solve this problem by creating yet more jobs, then the GDP will explode, thanks to the increased productivity that all new workers will have. In this case, there is a real concern as to whether the earth's resources and environment can carry such an exponentially growing economy. These are large questions, but the reality of mass layoffs is forcing us to answer them sooner rather than later.
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1 "Corporate Killers," Newsweek, February 26, 1996, pp. 44-48.