Top 10 Pharma Layoffs of 2012

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By the beginning of 2012, the pharma industry had endured one of the biggest shakeouts in the industry's history. Tens of thousands of jobs had been eliminated, and most employees had good reason to fear they would be next. Just after the New Year, PharmaIQ reported that a survey revealed that 44% of the people they contacted were afraid of losing their jobs.

Over the course of the year there has been plenty of industry news about notable layoffs, but it's also important to note that the trend is on the wane. By the latter part of the last decade, the stats gathered by Challenger, Gray & Christmas reflected about 45,000 job cuts a year in pharma, with the trend peaking in 2010 with 53,636 announced layoffs. Last year the number dropped to a bit more than 21,000. And so far this year, it's 10,109. 

"It does seem like the big companies over the last few years have really been through a lot of downsizing," says John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "They may have been through the big bulk of their cuts. Most businesses are more in a slowly growing mode right now, not cutting back. We've seen more of the heavy layoffs already occur."

But as you can see in our list of top 10 industry layoffs for 2012, the pink slips are still flowing. R&D has been targeted with the budget ax as companies like AstraZeneca turn to clinical research organizations or beef up the Asian end of their R&D divisions. The focus on hubs has big companies cutting in unproductive areas and hiring in the major global R&D centers. And acquisitions, even those made several years ago, are still a rich source of job cuts. 

Big Pharma's decision to go lean has had big consequences in New Jersey this year. From Roche's ($RHHBY) plans to eliminate its complex in Nutley, NJ, to Dendreon's ($DNDN) decision to shutter a manufacturing center in the state, New Jersey has been hit time and again. Novartis ($NVS) and Lundbeck have arranged for pink slips in the state as well, while Sanofi ($SNY) has been transferring Garden State workers to its big hub in Boston. And most recently Merck ($MRK) said it would move out of its longtime HQ in Whitehouse Station to take up residence in some empty space nearby, leaving another empty pharma site for some other company to fill.

Maybe now that the rebalancing act is almost complete, New Jersey and some other hard-hit regions can get back to growing jobs rather than counting losses. -- John Carroll, Editor-in-Chief. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn | Alison Bryant (email | Twitter)