Manufacturing Sector Leads Early 2003 Mass Layoffs

April 9, 2003 ( - Employers initiated 3,597 mass layoffs in January-February 2003 covering 340,474 workers.

According to the recently resumed mass layoffs report from the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the data from the latest 60-day period reflected slightly more individual layoffs than the same period a year earlier but involved fewer employees. The January-February 2002 numbers showed 3,529 mass layoffs involving 402,805 people.   Each layoff covered at least 50 people from a single employer. The BLS report was discontinued at the end of 2002, but resumed when funding was restored in February.

Manufacturing Layoffs

Manufacturing industries accounted for 35% of all mass layoffs and 40% of all initial claims for unemployment benefits filed in January-February 2003.    A year earlier, layoffs in this sector accounted for 39% of events and 47% of initial claims.   Within manufacturing, the number of initial claims was highest in transportation equipment (22,592, mainly in automobile manufacturing), followed by food processing (13,586, mostly in fruits and vegetables).  

Some 13% of the events and 9% of all initial claims in January-February were from construction, largely specialty trade contractors.   Retail trade accounted for 9% of all events and initial claims, mainly from general merchandise stores.   Transportation and warehousing contributed an additional 5% to all events and 6% to initial claims, primarily in school and employee bus transportation and in scheduled passenger air transportation.

Government agencies accounted for 4% of layoffs and 3% of initial claims filed during these two months, particularly in executive, legislative, and general government and in educational services.    Compared with January-February 2002, the largest decreases in initial claims were reported in transportation equipment manufacturing (-19,730) and in computer and electronic products manufacturing (-9,627).   The largest over-the-year increase in initial claims was reported in transit and ground passenger transportation (6,334).

In The Regions

Among the four regions, the highest number of initial claims in January-February due to mass layoffs was in the West, 112,935.   The South followed with 84,446 initial claims. The lowest numbers of initial claims was reported in the Northeast, 67,687, largely in transit and ground passenger transportation.

California had the largest number of initial claims this January-February, 87,682, mostly in administrative and support services. That was followed by Pennsylvania, 25,786; New York, 24,071; and Ohio, 20,786.   These four states accounted for 51% of all layoff events and 47% of initial claims for unemployment insurance.

During 2002, 20,269 layoff events occurred nationwide, resulting in 2,244,631 initial claims for unemployment insurance.    In 2001, there were 21,467 events and 2,514,862 initial claimants.