The global economic slowdown and other factors have hit the profits of South Korean brokerages, forcing them to reduce their workforce, sources told Yonhap. Other factors, including the European debt crisis and a slump in the domestic equity market, also have led to reduced trading activities at these brokerages, the South Korean news agency reported Monday. The report, citing data from the Financial Supervisory Service and the Korea Financial Investment Association, said there was a total of 42,388 employees in 63 brokerage firms at March end, down 0.7 percent from the previous quarter. \"Brokerages have tightened belts to cope with cloudy market conditions since the first quarter of this year,\" said an official from the Korea Federation of Clerical & Financial Union. \"The measures have included closing branches and merging business divisions, causing massive layoffs.\" The number of executive-level employees at the local brokerages, however, increased by 6 percent during the same period, the report said. Combined profits of the eight major South Korean brokerages in the first half was $478 million, down 28.9 percent from the same period of last year, Yonhap reported, quoting FnGuide Inc., a financial information provider. Daily trading volume, which determines the commission income of the brokerages, averaged $4.6 billion in the first half, down 30 percent year-on-year, the report said.