Martin Armstrong, the owner of the London-based firm, said the poor state of the job market was a factor. "The urgency has gone out of the existing searches. The investment banks have no choice but to pare their existing cost base at a time of diminished revenue," he said. "In a bad marketplace you reduce your overhead - which is people."
"Head hunters tend to be in denial when there is a market downturn," he added.
The laid-off staff are Lisa Masone, Amy Molinaro, Lisa Herman and Karen Stout. Their sectors included investment banking and equities and most had worked at the office for less than six months.
Armstrong said that despite the lay-offs he intended to keep the New York office going and that he was looking for a new partner to head up its operations.
A former partner in Armstrong's New York office, Darryl Adachi, said: "I don't think Armstrong will be the only search firm to be hit."
"Europe may not have been affected yet, but there is usually a six-month lag," added Adachi, who left Armstrong last year and is now at the search firm Heidrick & Struggles in London.
"We're hoping that the market does turn again, but we're all in the same boat."