By David ScheppWith just two weeks to go in the year, the number of job cuts announced by U.S. employers is behind last year's pace, though it's still staggering high -- with 490,806 job cuts this year (as of November). Last month alone, the nation's employers announced plans to cut more than 57,000 positions, only the fourth time this year in which monthly job cuts exceeded 50,000, according to data compiled by employment-services firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. The reasons that employers have given for mass layoffs have ranged from a change in business strategy to bankruptcy. And the layoffs have occurred across a wide spectrum of industries, from retail to manufacturing to financial services. But what most have shared: extraordinary generosity to the corporate titans at the top. So which American companies have made the most draconian job cuts in 2012? AOL Jobs has compiled a list of employers that slashed the most jobs in the United States: MET) Job cuts: 4,300 Though best known for selling life insurance, Metlife was also in the mortgage-origination business -- that is until it announced plans in January to shutter the unit. The move led to the elimination of most of the 4,300 workers who worked in that sector, and cost the company $90 million. About 20 percent, or 860, of the jobs were based in Irving, Texas, with the rest scattered throughout the nation. J.C. Penney Co. ( JCP) Job cuts: 4,700 As part of its plan to refresh its stodgy image, the venerable retailer announced plans in January to sell its merchandise at "everyday prices," rather than relying on frequent promotions to drive sales. As part of that plan, the Plano, Texas-based company said it would lay off 4,700 workers. The company said the cuts largely affected temporary workers. The pricing plan has failed to ignite sales, however. Last month, J.C. Penney said it recorded a $123 million loss in the quarter ending Oct. 31 -- likely leaving many still-employed Penney workers to ponder what the future holds.
PepsiCo ( PEP) Job cuts: 8,700 The beverage-and-snack giant announced its plans to cut 8,700 jobs in February as part of its plan to reduce costs by $1.5 billion. The layoffs affect workers in 30 countries, with fewer than 2,000 of the cuts expected to occur in the U.S., where the Purchase, N.Y.-based company has some 100,000 employees. Globally, PepsiCo employs three times that number and the announced cuts account for 3 percent of the company's total workforce. C) Job cuts: 11,000 Among the latest companies to announce job actions, the banking giant announced this month that it plans to eliminate 11,000 positions, as it seeks to shrink the size of its business and become more profitable. The cuts amount to about 4 percent of the bank's workforce and carry the fingerprints of Citigroup Chairman Michael O'Neill. The banking industry veteran has a history of ruthlessly shedding businesses that aren't earning enough money. American Airlines Job cuts: Up to 14,000 In February, American Airlines parent company AMR Corp. ( AAMRQ) announced plans to cut 14,000 jobs as part of its bankruptcy organization. By September, that number had been whittled down to a about 11,000 workers, who were advised they may lose their jobs by year-end. The company said, however, that it expects fewer than 40 percent of those it sent notices to, or 4,400 people, would actually be laid off. About 800 employees had agreed to leave the carrier voluntarily, American said, moves that are expected further reduce the number of layoffs. Hostess Brands Jobs cuts: 18,500 The iconic maker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread said in late November that it wouldeliminate 18,500 jobs as it liquidates its assets and sells off its familiar brands. Strikes crippled the company after it and the union representing some 5,600 bakers failed to reach an agreement during contract negotiations. Hewlett-Packard Co. ( HPQ) Jobs cuts: 27,000 The legendary computer and printer manufacturer announced plans in May to cut 27,000 workers, and then revised the total to 29,000 by 2014, equaling more than 8 percent of its workforce. HP has said that it will likely cut 11,500 jobs by the close of fiscal 2012, which ended Oct. 31. More From AOL Jobs 10 Tips to Avoid the Flu at Work Best Cities For Young Workers Layoff Rumors? How To Prepare For The Worst