December Mass Layoffs Shoot Up

January 22, 2004 ( - December proved to be a difficult month for the nation's unemployed with the number of mass layoffs and the amount of involved workers skyrocketing over the month before, according to the government.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in the US Department of Labor, employers carried out 1,929 December mass layoffs, up a whopping 34.1% from November, covering 138,543, up a similarly dramatic 39% from the month before.   The latest report follows November’s performance, which saw both the number of mass layoffs and affected workers enjoy a substantial decrease (See November Mass Layoffs Off from October Total).


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.

On a year-over-year basis, both figures were sharply lower than a year ago, with both the number of mass layoffs and affected workers at the lowest levels for December since 1999.   Fewer mass-layoff initial claims were filed against employers in motion picture and video production, in highway, street, and bridge construction, and in temporary help services in December 2003 compared with December 2002.


On a year-to-date basis, there were 18,963 mass layoffs covering 1,888,926 workers. The annual totals were lower than year-end figures in 2002 (20,277 and 2,245,051, respectively).  

In the December monthly data, school and employee bus transportation, with 12,178 initial claimants, and highway, street, and bridge construction, with 11,254 workers, together accounted for 12% of all initial claims over the month. The 10 industries reporting the highest number of mass-layoff initial claims accounted for 29% of the total.


The manufacturing sector recorded 34% of all mass layoffs and 40% of all initial claims filed in December.   A year ago, manufacturing reported 40% of events and 48% of initial claims.   Within manufacturing, the number of claimants was highest in transportation equipment (21,061) and food processing (9,285).  

Construction accounted for 17% of events and 13% of initial claims filed in December, with layoffs mostly in highway, street, and bridge construction.   Administrative and waste services accounted for 10% of events and 9% of initial claims during the month, mainly in temporary help services.   Seven percent of the mass layoffs and 8% of the initial claims were from the transportation and warehousing sector, largely among school and employee bus transportation.   An additional 7% of all layoff events and 8% of initial claims filed during December were from accommodation and food services, primarily among food-services contractors.


Government establishments accounted for 4% of events and 3% of initial claims filed during the month, particularly in executive, legislative and general government.


Compared with December 2002, the largest decreases in initial claims were reported in plastics and rubber products manufacturing (-8,197), motion picture and sound recording industries (-5,454), and computer and electronic product manufacturing (-5,294).   The largest over-the-year increase in initial claims was in professional and technical services (+1,500).


Among the four regions, the highest number of initial claims in December due to mass layoffs was reported in the Midwest at 87,806.