October Mass Layoffs Head North

November 26, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Domestic mass layoffs skyrocketed in October over the month before with a 75.4% increase in layoffs and a 91.4% hike in affected workers.

According to the monthly report from the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employers initiated 1,523 October mass layoffs, up from September’s 868, affecting 158,240 people, up from September’s 82,647. The government defines a mass layoff as one affecting at least 50 people from a single employer and measures the data from new filings for unemployment insurance.  October’s performance follows two months of declines (See US Mass Layoffs Continue Dropping )


Year to date through October, the total number of layoffs (15,596), and the number of workers (1,557,750), were lower than the January to October period a year ago (15,650 events and 1,740,722 initial claims).


Things were also down when measured against October 2002, the BLS said. During October 2003, fewer mass-layoff initial claims were filed against employers in temporary help services, discount department stores, semiconductors and related devices, and broad woven fabric mills compared with a year earlier.


Supermarkets and other grocery stores, with 13,682 affected workers, and temporary help services, with 11,964 affected workers, together accounted for 16% of all initial claims in October.   The 10 industries reporting the highest number of mass-layoff initial claims accounted for 34% of the total.   The manufacturing sector recorded 29% of all mass layoffs and 34% of all affected workers filed in October.   A year ago, manufacturing reported 33% of layoffs and 38% of initial claims.   Within manufacturing, the number of affected workers was highest in transportation equipment (10,229) and food processing (10,034).


Retail trade accounted for 8% of events and 14% of affected workers filed in October, with layoffs mostly in supermarkets and other grocery stores.   Administrative and waste services accounted for 15% of layoffs and 14% of affected workers during the month, mainly in temporary help services.   Some 12% of the layoffs and 8% of the affected workers were from the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sector, largely among farm labor contractors and crew leaders.   An additional 9% of all layoffs and 7% of initial claims filed during October were from construction firms, primarily among specialty trade contractors.


Government agencies accounted for 5% of layoffs and initial claims filed during the month, particularly in transit and ground passenger transportation.   The 7,527 initial claims in government were the most for an October since 1997.   The total number of events and initial claims in government from January through October of this year have already exceeded those for all of 2002.


Compared with October 2002, the largest decreases in initial claims were reported in administrative and support services (-5,512) and computer and electronic products manufacturing (-4,562).   The largest over-the-year increase in initial claims was in food and beverage stores (+11,257).


Among the four regions, the highest number of initial claims in October due to mass layoffs was reported in the West, 68,376. Administrative and support services, agriculture and forestry support activities, and food and beverage stores accounted for 37% of all initial claims in that region during the month.   The Midwest region was next, with 43,432 initial claims, followed by the South, with 29,371, and the Northeast, with 17,061.