BLS: March Mass Layoffs Steady

April 22, 2004 ( - March mass layoffs were down from February and a year ago and were the lowest for any March since 1999.

Employers carried out 920 mass layoffs in March covering 92,554 workers, down from 941 mass layoffs in February (See  February Mass Layoff Figures Nose Dive ).  However, February’s mass layoffs covered fewer workers (84,201) than March, according to data supplied by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

For the first quarter of 2004,the total number of events, at 4,289, and initialclaims, at 416,209, was lower than in January-March 2003 (4,885 and463,421, respectively).

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 (32, 508).  The Northeast, with 12,196 initial claims had the lowest.

Once again it was the manufacturing sector leading all others in terms of mass layoff events. The manufacturing sector had 28% of all mass layoff events and 37% of all initial claims filed in March.  A year ago, manufacturing reported 32% of events and 36% of initial claims.  Within manufacturing, the number of claimants was highestin transportationequipment (13,430, mostly automotive-related), followed by food processing(6,220, mainly in frozen fruits and vegetables). 

The administrative and waste services sector accounted for 14% of events and 12% of initial claims filed in March, primarily concentrated in temporary help services, whereas construction accounted for 12% of events and 8% of initial claims during the month, weighted down by layoffs among specialty trade contractors.An additional 8% of events and 7% of initialclaims were in retail trade, mostly from discount department stores.   Government establishments accounted for 4% of events and 3% of initial claims filed during the month.

Compared with March 2003, the largest decreases in initial claims were reported in computer and electronic product manufacturing (-3,803), administrative and support services (-3,286), machinery manufacturing (-3,068), and general merchandise stores (-2,829).  The largest over-the-year increase in initial claims was reported in transportation equipment manufacturing (+8,369).