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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mass Layoffs Decline
by Tom Moeller  September 21, 2012

The job market continues to show signs of improvement as mass layoffs in the U.S. during August continued lower. The Labor Department reported that layoffs of 50 or more persons from a single firm fell to 1,016, the lowest level in six months. However, the level of layoffs rose 12.4% y/y from a low base one year ago. On a seasonally adjusted basis mass layoff events fell to 1,267, the lowest level of the economic recovery.

During August it was the factory sector where a sharp 308 decline (+10.1% y/y) reversed the July gain. Layoff events in health care also showed a sharp decline for the second straight month but remained up 3.3% from last year's level. Retail trade (45.6% y/y) and arts, entertainment & recreation (35.3% y/y) showed increases in layoff announcements. 

There were 104,045 (4.9% y/y) initial claims for unemployment insurance accompanying these layoffs; 31,193 (15.9% y/y) in manufacturing and 11,071 (62.7% y/y) in retail trade.

A mass layoff involves at least 50 initial claimants from a single establishment filing during a consecutive 5-week period. The BLS data are available in Haver's USECON database. Underlying state and area detail are available in the REGIONAL database.

Mass Layoffs (NSA) Aug Jul Jun Aug Y/Y 2011 2010 2009
 Private Nonfarm 1,016 1,385 1,539 12.4% 17,046 17,887 26,437
  Construction 96 86 91 47.7 1,994 2,262 2,833
  Manufacturing 251 559 255 10.1 4,397 4,523 9,627
  Retail Trade 115 92 132 45.6 1,448 1,574 1,965
  Information 33 32 48 -43.1 522 548 752
  Finance & Insurance 28 24 24 7.7 313 430 677
  Health Care & Social Assistance 31 56 201 3.3 738 709 675
  Arts, Entertainment and Recreation 23 14 40 35.3 338 363 389
 Government 47 130 351 -17.5 1,475 1,677 1,593
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