BLS: February Mass Layoff Figures Nose Dive

March 24, 2004 ( - February finally provided a modicum of relief from unrelenting mass layoff figures, as the number of events was the lowest for any February since 1997.

Employers carried out only 941 February mass layoffs covering 84,201, down significantly from the 2,428 mass layoffs in January covering 239,454 workers (SeeBLS: Mass Layoffs Higher in January).   February’s numbers were the lowest for any February since 1997 and over-the-year declines were the largest for a February since the program began in April 1995 , according to data supplied by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The government defines a mass layoff as one involving at least 50 people from a single employer and measures the data from initial unemployment benefit filings.  Among the four geographic regions, the West had the largest amount of initial claims in February (34,453).   The Northeast, with 12,795 initial claims had the lowest.

Once again it was the manufacturing sector leading all others in terms of mass layoff events, even if the sector’s share was down.   The manufacturing sector had 26% of all mass layoff events and27% of all initial claims filed in February, both being the smallestshares for any February on record.  A year ago, manufacturing reported 32% of events and 39% of initial claims.  Within manufacturing,the number of claimants was highest in food processing (6,517), transportation equipment (2,671)and electrical equipment and appliances (2,109). 

The administrative and waste services sector accounted for 15% of events and 13% of initial claims filed in February, primarily concentrated in temporary help services, whereas construction accounted for 14% of events and 10% of initial claims during the month, weighted down by layoffs among specialty trade contractors. Eleven percent of all layoff events and initial claims filed during the month were in retail trade, especially in discount department stores, which recorded a series peak for February.

Government establishments accounted for 4% of events and initial claims filed during the month, particularly in educational services.Government accounted for its largest share of events and initial claims for any February on record.

Compared with February 2003, the largest increases in initial claims were reported inmotion picture and sound recording (+1,632)and general merchandise stores (+1,434).   The largest over-the-year decreases in initial claims were reported in manufacturing (-7,864) and administrative and support services (-4,648).