Mass Layoffs, Victims, Skyrocket in July

August 28, 2003 ( - In a sign of continuing job market weakness, the number of mass layoffs as well as the number of victims of those layoffs skyrocketed during July, the government reported.

According to data from the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), companies initiated 2,087 mass layoffs during the month, up 23.4% from June’s 1,691, while July’s count of involved workers at 226, 435 leapt 43.6% over the previous month’s 157, 595 (See  Mass Layoff Victim Totals Drop in June ).  

BLS defines a mass layoff as those involving 50 or more workers from the same company and measures the data based on new filings for jobless benefits over the month.  

Compared to July 2002, the number of layoffs increased while the number of workers involved declined.   July 2003 marks the 14th consecutive month in which mass-layoff initial claims declined over the year.   From January through July 2003, the total number of layoffs, at 11,947, was higher than for the same period a year ago, but the number of initial claims, at 1,183,045, was lower, the BLS said.

The manufacturing sector accounted for 45% of all mass layoffs and 60% of involved workers in July, little changed from a year ago (44% and 55%, respectively).   Within manufacturing, the layoff victim total was highest in transportation equipment (60,173), mainly automotive-related), followed by plastics and rubber products (11,122), primary metals (8,676), and machinery (8,669).  

The administrative and waste services sector accounted for 10% of layoffs and 8% workers filed in July, with layoffs mostly in temporary help services.   Retail trade accounted for 5% of layoffs and 4% of initial claims during the month, mainly in general merchandise stores.   Six percent of the events and 4% of the workers were from agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, largely among farm labor contractors and crew leaders.   Transportation and warehousing accounted for an additional 4% of all layoffs and 3% of workers filed during July, as did the construction sector.   Layoffs in transportation and warehousing were primarily in school and employee bus transportation.   Layoffs in construction were mostly among specialty trade contractors.


Government agencies accounted for 7% of layoffs and 5% of workers during the month, particularly in educational services, as the school year ended.   The 11,265 workers in this sector were the most for any July since 1998.


Compared with July 2002, the largest decreases in involved workers were reported in administrative and support services (-6,527), computer and electronic products (-6,374), and motion picture and sound recording (-5,878).   The largest over-the-year increase in initial claims was reported in transportation equipment manufacturing (+12,590).


Among the four regions, the highest number of initial claims in July due to mass layoffs was reported in the Midwest at 101,533.