The High Lay-Off Economy (BSX)(INTC)(CFC)(HPQ)

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Workers in industries that are not doing well usually get laid off. But, it is not a good omen when workers in robust sectors of the economy are losing their jobs.

Countrywide (CFC) has said that about 12,000 jobs will be lost at the mortgage company. The Mortgage Bankers Association says that 30,000 jobs in their industry will disappear next year due to the lowest mortgage originations since 2000. Wall St. firms are letting go employees in fixed income units.

Boston Scientific (BSX) hurt by falling sales of its stents will probably fire 3,400 people later this month.

And, these companies and industries are in trouble

But, yesterday Intel (INTC) said that it earnings were up 43% in Q3. And, it will fire another 2,000 people. AOL recently let go about 2,000 souls. Internet advertising is supposed to be growing

Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) says that it will further cut costs.Its stock is near a 52-week high. 3M (MMM) and Amgen (AMGN) recently pushed out some of their people.

It may be that the market is bracing for a slower economy, and that large companies are being proactive. Or general productivity may still be rising, making it easier to have fewer people doing more work.

But, it begins an insidious cycle. Job cuts beget more trouble in consumer spending and housing. Falling spending hurts corporate earnings. More people lose their jobs.

It is how recessions begin.

Douglas A. McIntyre