US Mass Layoffs Continue Dropping

October 23, 2003 ( - In a bright sign for the nation's employment picture, the number of mass layoffs carried out in September plummeted by 31% while the number of involved workers likewise fell a whopping 38.2%.

According to the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 868 mass layoffs during September that put 82,647 workers on the street – the lowest September figures since 1999. That follows August’s data showing a nearly 40% drop in the number of layoffs and a 40.8% decline in involved workers over July (See August Mass Layoffs Down from July ).

From January through September 2003, the total number of mass layoffs stood at 14,073 and the number of involved workers at 1,399,510 – lower than the same period a year before. BLS follows mass layoffs – defined as layoffs involving at least 50 workers from one company – through new jobless benefits filed during the month.

Temporary help services, with 5,737 claims, accounted for 7% of all initial claims in September.   Five of the 10 industries reporting the highest number of mass-layoff initial claims recorded their peak level for September this year.


The manufacturing sector recorded 31% of all mass layoffs and 38% of involved workers.   A year ago, manufacturing reported 33% of layoffs and 35% of involved workers.   Within manufacturing, the number of claimants was highest in transportation equipment (4,825), followed by computer and electronic products (4,820), food manufacturing (4,145), and textile mills (3,510).  


The administrative and waste services sector accounted for 13% of layoffs and 12% of involved workers in September, with layoffs mostly in temporary help services.   The information sector accounted for 3% of layoffs and 7% of workers during the month, mainly in motion picture and video production.   Some 8% of the layoffs and 7% of the initial claims were from the retail trade, largely from general merchandise stores.   An additional 9% of all layoffs and 6% of involved workers during September were from construction firms, primarily among specialty trade contractors.

Government establishments accounted for 8% of layoffs and initial claims filed during the month, particularly in local executive, legislative, and general government agencies and in educational services.   The 6,351 initial claims in government were the most for any September since the mass layoffs series began in 1995. Compared with September 2002, the largest decreases in initial claims were reported in truck transportation (-11,270), administrative and support services (-4,760), and general merchandise stores (-3,689).   The largest over-the-year increase in initial claims was in motion picture and sound recording (+1,397).