Among the most notable were the layoffs caused by the September collapse of the brokerage firm Lehman Brothers. Shock waves spread throughout the financial world when Lehman filed for bankruptcy Sept. 15, the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.
British bank Barclays purchased Lehman's North American investment-banking and trading divisions, saving some jobs. But an estimated 16,000 people still lost their jobs.
Of the country's five former brokerage giants, only Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs have survived the recession. But both did so by converting themselves into bank holding companies -- a move that qualified them for the federal government's bank bailout -- and laying off thousands of employees.
Morgan, which cut 7,000 jobs last year, may now cut 1,800 more, the Wall Street Journal reports. Goldman, which announced 3,200 in job cuts in November, is also reportedly considering more reductions.
The retail banking sector has seen its own share of job losses, including those caused by the largest bank failure of the year. When too many bad loans finally caught up with Washington Mutual, the nation's largest thrift, JPMorgan Chase, purchased the bank for $1.9 billion.
In December, JPMorgan announced the elimination of 9,200 jobs related to the WaMu acquisition. Another 9,160 jobs were cut in May by JP Morgan in connection with its acquisition of failed investment bank Bear Stearns.
Banking giant Citigroup had more layoffs than any other company in 2008, according to the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Citigroup announced a 9,000-job reduction in April, but the brunt of its layoffs came right before Thanksgiving: another 50,000 jobs eliminated.
As Americans look for cheaper java, upscale coffee seller Starbucks is suffering. The company, facing competition from lower-cost companies such as Dunkin' Donuts and McDonald's, announced in July it was closing 600 under-performing, company-owned stores and cutting U.S. expansion plans amid concerns about America's slowing economy. As part of those store closings, 12,000 jobs were lost.
Americans struggling with rising mortgages and high gas prices are also cutting back on the number of meals eaten out. One of the early casualties of the restaurant slump was Bennigan's. The franchise filed for bankruptcy in July, closing all the company-owned restaurants. About 9,300 people lost their jobs.
As shoppers stay home, stores ranging from toy sellers to even low-cost retailer Wal-Mart -- once considered to be relatively safe from recession woes -- are cutting back on staff.
Wal-Mart announced Feb. 10 that it would cut 800 jobs. Most of the Wal-Mart and Sam's Club job losses will come from the company's Arkansas headquarters. Despite the round of layoffs, Wal-Mart Inc. spokesman David Tovar said the company planned to add employees at retail stores across the country, according to the Associated Press.
Target Corp., the popular discount retailer, announced major layoffs in January. Target planned to reduce staff at its Minnesota headquarters, including about 600 employees and 400 open positions, primarily in the Twin Cities area. Later in the year, the company plans to close its Little Rock, Ark., distribution center, which staffs 500 employees.
In a statement to Reuters, the company cited the economy as the main reason for cutting jobs.