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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mass Corporate Layoffs Still Are Subdued
by Robert Brusca May 23, 2007

The graph on the left shows layoff trends by events - the number of reported layoff events - through the first quarter. While there is a bit of upward pressure evident in that chart, a good deal of that is purely seasonal. The services line seems to be accelerating. But a closer look at the data shows that services lay off events for January and February are below the levels in 2006; cumulative layoff events did rise in March above what is seasonably normal and that has boosted the year to date total to be even with 2006, after being below it for January and February.

As far as the number of workers laid off, those figures are lower in Q1 2007 than in Q1 2006. Their pattern has been choppy.

The big picture trend seems to show some slight upward pressure on the incidence of layoff events.

But if we construct the same sort of chart on the number of persons laid off, instead of events, the layoff total for Q1 is down sharply. So while the number of incidents may have risen in the service sector for April, for Q1, taken as a whole, the number of workers laid off is down sharply. Actually, the number of service workers laid off in mass events according to the definition* is closer to half of that for Q1 last year. For MFG the number of workers laid off is also low relative to last year and relative to this expansion cycle. Construction layoffs are up significantly in Q1 2007 compared to Q1 2006, at 27,000 compared to 21,341 in the year-ago quarter. But the number of construction layoffs is still moderate by the standards of the past six years where layoffs in Q1 had previously averaged 26,036.

On balance there is no evidence of layoffs rising in a significant way in any sector although there is some tentative evidence that the incidence of layoff events - apparently smaller events -- may have stepped up its pace. Construction may yet prove to be an exception though the data are not clear.

Mass Corporate Layoffs
Number of Separations
Manufacturing Services Construction
Q1-07 51,424 59,545 27,457
Change Yr Yr
Q1-07 -11,712 -38,688 6,116
Q4-06 22,079 17,573 5,572
Q3-06 530 -47,862 5,611
Q2-06 15,456 32,559 710
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