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Death by dotcom grew 18 per cent in the last month, with more than 5,000 jobs lost.

A total of 5,677 people were laid off by bubble economy firms in the month ended October 20, according to Chicago outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas.

CEO John Challenger has followed the trend since December, when he recorded 301 layoffs. He reckons the job slashing really took off in May, when investors stated pushing dotcoms to show some profits. Of the 274 businesses which have announced layoffs since December, 44 have gone titsup.com.

Challenger thinks worse is yet to come - and that many Web firms selling products and services direct to consumers will struggle through the holiday season and probably end up on the scrap heap.

Dotcoms underestimated just how long it would take the public to switch the bulk of their buying to the Internet, he says.

"Many of these companies don't have the time to get there," Challenger told today's Wall Street Journal. "I think it's very likely that November, December and January are going to be a heavy period and may very well define the peak period of layoffs for the dot-coms."

In the first nine months of the year there were 16,289 layoffs in the dotcom sector, based on corporate filings and notices of cuts. ®

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