Merry Christmas! Now, About the New Year

Will today's giddy economic boom give way to a brutal postholiday hangover? Last week the Dow Jones stock average slipped on confusing news of megamergers by some companies and thousands of layoffs at others. It then recovered slightly after the Department of Labor announced that the November unemployment rate dipped to 4.4%.

But when it comes to jobs, the bad news may outweigh the good. Challenger, Gray and Christmas, a Chicago-based outplacement firm, estimates that 1998 may set the decade's record for layoffs. It reported that U.S. firms eliminated 574,629 jobs this year--32% more than in 1997 and within reach...

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