Fourth Quarter 2002 Mass Layoffs Down From Year Earlier

April 18, 2003 ( - Other economic signals may not be too promising at the moment, but at least mid- and large-sized companies had fewer mass layoffs during the fourth quarter of 2002 compared to a year earlier.

The US Department of Labor (DoL) reported 2,127 mass layoffs during the October to December 2002 period covering 416,941 people, down 21% from the 2,698 the same time in 2001. The 2001 fourth quarter mass layoffs covered 542,284 workers. However, mass layoffs were up 54% from 1,383 in the third quarter.

Manufacturing industries accounted for 32% of private-sector mass layoffs and 31% of separated workers during the 2002 fourth quarter.

The completion of seasonal work sparked 46% of the period’s mass layoffs. Restructuring-related staff reductions were responsible for 16%, mostly affecting workers in general-merchandise stores, and in computer and electronics manufacturing, which was lower than a year earlier. Lack of demand for products and services accounted for 14%, mostly in machinery manufacturing and in transportation-equipment manufacturing. Permanent closing of work sites occurred in 11% of the cases, affecting 54,762 workers.

Of the employers reporting layoffs, 58% said they expected to recall some of those workers, up from 49% a year earlier. Most of those employers expected to recall half of the workers they laid off within six months

For all of 2002, there were 7,163 mass-layoff, resulting in the loss of 1.5 million jobs. That was lower than the 8,350 events in the previous year, which resulted in the loss of 1.8 million jobs, according to the DoL.

The DoL defines mass layoffs as actions that involve at least 50 workers who are off the job for at least 31 days. The government counts a person as laid off only after the company has cut the job from its payroll, rather than when the cutback was announced. As a result, the official data are often lower than other figures that tally corporate-layoff announcements.