Beer. It's what a lot of fired Enron employees were drinking and no wonder. They have joined the ranks of the unemployed.  Ranks that are growing.

"We are looking at 2 million job loss during this recession — which is pretty uncomfortable," said David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's.

The unemployment number shot up to 5.7 percent in November.  And usually in December companies try and slip through the end of the year with all the bad news on one balance sheet.

Mike Norman, of The Economic Contrarian, was not optimistic about a quick turnaround.

"I think that we had a brief pause in companies shedding workers," said Norman.
"I think it will pick up again… we are going to have problems with inventories again in the first quarter of 2002 because the holiday sale season is weak right now."

Jobless claims were better for the most recent week.  But few expect it to stay that way. A pink slip, no-holiday present for workers. Or for consumers trying to spend:

Just announced this week alone: Aetna to shed 6,000; Applied Materials to lose 1,700 and American Express some 6,500 more.

"Down seizing continues in what was once a taboo period between the holidays and the New Year," noted Challenger, Gray and Christmas' John Challenger

Layoffs are led by travel-related businesses like airlines and hotels. But overall job cuts have hit 1.6 million. While the economy is expected to turn around next year, it doesn't look like we will have the gain without the pain of pink slips.