March Mass Layoffs Plummet from 2002

April 30, 2003 ( - There was a hint of good labor market news Wednesday with word that the number of mass layoffs in March plummeted to its lowest level for March in three years.

The US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that March 2003 saw 1,170 mass layoffs involving 109,838 workers. The BLS defines a mass layoff as one involving 50 workers or more and measures it by new filings for unemployment insurance benefits during the month.

Compared with March 2002, the number of layoffs declined by 20% and the number of workers involved fell by 32%.   From January through March 2003, the total number of layoffs at 4,767, and initial claims, at 450,312 (See  Manufacturing Sector Leads Early 2003 Mass Layoffs) , were lower than in January to March 2002 (4,989 and 564,141,respectively).


Manufacturing industries accounted for 33% of all mass layoffs and 37% of all initial claims filed in March, little changed from a year earlier (34% and 37%, respectively).   The number of initial jobless benefits claimants was highest in food production (7,520, largely in frozen fruits and vegetables), followed by computer and electronic products (5,298) and transportation equipment (5,061).


The administrative and waste services sector accounted for 13% of events and initial claims filed during the month, with layoffs mostly in temporary help services.   Eight percent of all layoffs and 9% of initial jobless claims filed during the month were in retail trade, primarily in general merchandise stores.   Ten percent of the events and 7% of the initial claims were from construction, most often among specialty trade contractors.   The accommodation and food services sector accounted for 6% of events and initial claims, mostly from food service contractors.


Government establishments accounted for 4% of layoffs and 3% of initial jobless claims filed during the month, particularly in educational services. Compared with March 2002, the largest decreases in initial claims were reported in administrative and support services (-7,475) and professional and technical services (-5,206).   The largest over-the-year increase in initial claims was reported in motion picture and sound industries (+2,590).

Among the four regions, the highest number of initial claims in March due to mass layoffs was reported in the west at 46,815.