"Lovingly wrapped in a creamy white envelope, with gorgeously detailed gold writing and a first class stamp. This isn’t just any P45, it’s an M&S P45.”

Okay, so redundancies are not a source of mirth. But, as any psychologist will tell you, making light of things is one way humans cope when the proverbial hits the fan.

And it certainly has this month, as the financial world in particular racked up job loss figures the size of a pre credit crunch investment banker’s monthly expense account. So it was with interest that I read The Grocer’s Jobometer showing the balance between lost jobs and new jobs in grocery (January 17, p6). For, among all the bad news, the food sector is continuing to give us some welcome cheer.

While 32,282 jobs have been lost in grocery, a total of 34,630 are being created thanks to Tesco Towers’ Sir Terry and Olympic committee member Justin King of Sainsbury's (also soon to be Sir, no doubt). Add in Asda and Morrisons, let alone Aldi, Poundland and Lidl, and food retailers are definitely bucking the trend. And this is before taking into account Waitrose’s 2,500 extra jobs.

Even the job loss figures are not as bad as they appear, most being accounted for by the already known demise of Woolworths and cutbacks at Marks & Spencer, leaving 4,000 losses across the entire industry, mostly in manufacturing. Given that it is one of the country’s biggest employers, it could be much worse at this stage.

This is not to play down the situation, nor to say jobs in the food industry will not be further squeezed over the coming year. But it does prove that, if your business model is sound, you can not only ride out a recession but come out the other end guns-a-blazing. Consider Tesco and Walkers in the 1990s recession. Who remembers that they went into it trailing Sainsbury's and Golden Wonder?

For those that do not feel they can ‘do a Tesco or Walkers’ my advice is to look at your business model before you jump in and shed jobs in a desperate bid to cut costs. Are you trying to paper over the cracks? Is your business agile enough to meet the challenges of today – and tomorrow? Will you be ready for the upturn?

The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development has kindly worked out that the average cost of a redundancy is £16,375. Management consultancy Able and How goes one better, saying the average FTSE 100 company will waste £67m on unnecessary redundancies.

For those who still want to check whether redundancies make sense, here is the CIPD’s formula for the real cost: (nxR) + (XxH) + (XxT) + ny (H+T) + Wz (P-n). Looks a bit like that Black Scholes equation so beloved by Nobel Prize economists and the City alike. Wasn’t it formulae such as this that got us into this situation in the first place?

Sîan Harrington is editor of Human Resources.