The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) released a new poll in December that shows 48 percent of organizations laid-off employees in 2008. Six of ten firms surveyed organizations said they expect to lay off employees in the next 12 months, according to a SHRM press release.

The latest survey, “Layoffs in light of 2008 challenges to the U.S. economy,” is the third in a series being conducted by SHRM to help identify the people management challenges facing businesses and HR professionals in a down economy.

“Our country is now facing its most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression. The weak economy and chaotic financial markets worldwide are hitting businesses hard and forcing them to make tough people decisions," said SHRM President and CEO Laurence O'Neil. “With the US economy in a recession, HR professionals are uniquely qualified to lead the bottom-line people strategies that businesses need in order to survive and prosper in today's difficult economy."

According to the survey, more than half (53 percent) of the layoffs in the next 12 months will occur at various levels. Executives (1 percent) are the least likely to be laid off, followed by sales positions (3 percent), then middle management (6 percent). Most of the expected coming layoffs will involve technical/ professional positions (13 percent), unskilled labor positions (13 percent), and administrative positions (11 percent).

Most laid-off employees do not leave without some type of help from their employers, according to the SHRM press release. Surveyed organizations offered a wide-range of benefits, from severance pay (74 percent) to career counseling (28 percent) and use of office space during a job search (8 percent).

During the last 12 months, most laid off employees found out via one-on-one meetings with their HR department and direct supervisor (59 percent), according to the SHRM survey. The second most popular way was in meetings with just the employees’ manager or supervisor (30 percent).