Crikey’s SackWatch is now up to its fourth installment with another huge spate of lay-offs announced in the last week (see the first three editions here, here and here).

With up to 100,000 small businesses set to hit the wall this year according to Dun & Bradstreet, Kevin Rudd will be praying his $42 billion stimulus package, aimed in part at revitalising small business confidence via tax cuts, filters through the economy before it’s too late.

Official unemployment data released last week showed the jobless rate at its highest level since the first half of 2006, although comparatively we’re well off if you look at the carnage unfolding daily in the US, UK and Eastern Europe.

The 4.8% unemployment figure for January has also been the subject of intense debate among economists with many now doubting the accuracy of the ABS data which factors in a huge margin of error. Although the ABS said the economy actually added 1,200 full-time jobs in net terms last month, it could have either lost 60,000 positions or gained 62,000 according to the statistics. The easiest conclusion to draw from the data is that we just don’t know, but anecdotally things aren’t looking good.

And a fresh economic activity survey released this morning suggests the domestic economy is headed for a recession as consumer confidence evaporates alongside economic growth.

Here’s the latest from a hollowed-out domestic jobs market struggling to insulate itself against the market’s ill winds:

KPMG: 101 staff sacked today from its Sydney and Melbourne offices in previously-unannounced purge

CSR: Building products and sugar maker axed 539 jobs and cut its full year profit guidance by up to 20%

Virgin Blue: Will axe up to 400 jobs after the airline decided to ground five aircraft. Management is also said to be trying to find a way of sacking 50 pilots, despite reports last week suggesting redundancies will be limited. Qantas workers could also be in the firing line as the industry spruiks unsustainable fares to keep passengers in the air.

Macquarie Bank: The “Millionaire’s Factory” sacked around 1000 staff last year and is cutting another 100 employees.

Norilsk: World’s biggest nickel producer has suspended production in Western Australia, resulting in 330 redundancies

Rio Tinto: 30 workers laid off from the Bell Bay aluminum smelter in Tasmania

Onesteel: More job losses on top of the 800 lost since November as output slashed by 300,000 tonnes

The resources sector: Job losses since the end of the commodities boom are said to have reached 9,500

Brambles: 750 job cuts world wide as millions of patented CHEP pallets lie idle in storage

Vodafone: Hundreds of jobs to be excised nationally after last week’s merger with Hutchison Telecoms. The combined group is weighed down by 3,700 employees and 400 stores with the “3” brand set to be phased out. The merged firm also has 2 legal counsel, one of which is John Howard’s daughter Melanie, leading to claims she could be about to quit and enter the Liberal pre-selection race for Bennelong.

PaperlinX: Future of 400 workers at Burnie and Wesley Vale plants under a cloud as the company conducts a review of the plants left out of Monday’s sale of its subsidiary Australian Paper to the Japanese.

Nyrstar: 250 contractors at Hobart zinc smelter told not to show up for work with management aiming to cut production by 30%

Incat: Tasmanian boat builder reduced casual workforce by 100 late last year, joining rival Riviera in cutting staff as luxury purchases fall off the consumer radar

Boom Logistics: Melbourne crane business takes 18 cranes out of service, with 31 jobs to go

Holden: “Job-reduction target” will impact on 2000 of Holden’s 6500 employees and is in addition to 530 job losses due by July, when the company shuts down its four-cylinder engine plant in Victoria. Parent General Motors will reduce its worldwide workforce to 63,000.

Foster’s: More than 300 jobs lost in an attempt to save $100 million as wine brands and vineyards ditched

Drivetrain Systems International: Albury-based car parts manufacturer has stood down 400 workers without pay after the company entered receivership. The always-tenuous local car parts sector is awash with sackings as the pressures of global competition weigh.

GHD: Engineering and architectural firm cuts 35 jobs from its offices in regional Victoria, and another 25 from the Melbourne office

Hyder Consulting: Sydney Harbour Bridge engineering consultants to axe 440 jobs in Australian and the UK

Clough: Engineering contractor axing about 75 jobs in its Perth and Bangkok operations

Challenger: Financial services firm set to announce more sackings after hiving off 174 positions, or 18% of its workforce last year

PMP Limited: Printer slashes 32 out of 112 jobs from its Wacol operation near Brisbane with 44 to go from its Adelaide plant

Quest Community Newspapers: News Ltd suburban subsidiary to sack 5 staff at Bowen Hills and Stafford sites in Queensland.

The Rudd Government: Linday Tanner’s revitalised public service razor gang is shaping up to challenge Max “the axe” Moore-Wilton’s notorious rampage in the late 1990s. Public service flab in all departments to be closely examined, with Kevin Rudd on record as claiming he wants to take a “meat-axe” to the APS. Ministerial advisers look to be exempt from Tanner’s scapel, however.

Peter Fray

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