In the first quarter of 2013, the U.S. saw 914 mass layoff events in the private sector, costing 154,374 workers their jobs.
Those might sound like daunting stats—but this is actually good news on the labor front. Given the depth and duration of the Great Recession, these results are considered a big rebound from previous years.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of layoff actions fell 29% from the same three-month period last year, and dropped 56% from the last quarter of 2012 when there were 2,123 mass layoffs in the private sector.
The total number of jobs lost is off 37% from a year ago when it totaled 246,958, and down 64% from 424,492 in the fourth quarter of 2012. These are the lowest first-quarter layoff and job loss levels since 1996.
A mass layoff event is defined by the BLS as a filing of 50 or more initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits from an employer during a 5-week period. In order to exclude temporary furloughs, separation had to exceed 30 days to qualify. The average size of a layoff was 169 workers during the first quarter of 2013, however, events were largely concentrated at the lower end of the spectrum, with 71% involving fewer than 150 workers. Only 4% of the mass layoffs last quarter involved 500 or more people.
As it turns out, more than half the first-quarter layoffs were a function of workers completing a contract or seasonality. Other common reasons: Reorganization or restructuring of a company, cost cutting, and bankruptcy.
Among the industries that took the biggest hits, construction had 178 extended mass layoff events resulting in 20,071 job losses, largely due to contract completion. The administrative and waste services sector reported 143 layoff events and 23,284 separations for the three-month period.
Manufacturing layoffs and job losses hit their lowest level since BLS started tracking the data in 1995. The industry had 184 mass layoff events in the first quarter of 2013, due to both insufficient demand and the completion of seasonal work. These cuts cost 30,870 individuals their jobs. Fortunately for some of them, many manufacturing employers expect to rehire the displaced workers.
Of the private sector employers that reported a layoff event not involving a permanent worksite closure, 49% expected to recall at least some of the workers displaced during the first quarter. Eighteen percent of those employers indicated they would extended the offer to all laid-off workers; while 57% anticipated extending the offer to at least half. The BLS reported that a majority plan to start rehiring within six months.
Despite the good news, plenty of workers all over the country are still getting slapped with pink slips. And the problem is especially bad in California.
In California, the most populous state in the U.S., 254 mass layoffs in the private sector affected 58,304 people. This represents 28% of the total major layoff events in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2013--and it is more than three times the number of job losses in New York, the state with the second highest number of layoffs.
Hewlett-Packard employees were among those affected by mass layoffs in California. A year ago the Palo Alto-based company announced plans to reduce its workforce by about 27,000 people. That number has since grown to 29,000—and in early 2013, the firm’s chief executive, Meg Whitman, said HP had reached the halfway point in its restructuring. As of March, the tech giant had 15,000 layoffs to go.
StumbleUpon, a social discovery platform headquartered in San Francisco, also reduced its payroll this year when the company laid off 30% of its staff in January. Meanwhile, in Thousand Oaks, Calif., biopharmaceutical company Amgen filed documents in January to lay off up to 157 employees in their Ventura County headquarters and other locations throughout the U.S..
And those aren’t the only California companies slashing payrolls.
In fact, The Golden State is home to five of the 10 metro areas with the largest number of layoffs in the first quarter. The Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, Calif. area ranks as the No. 1 'Pink Slip Capital' with 27,042 initial claimants.
According to the BLS, an initial claimant is a “person who files any notice of unemployment to initiate a request either for a determination of entitlement to and eligibility for compensation, or for a subsequent period of unemployment within a benefit year or period of eligibility.” The number of initial claimants in Los Angeles is larger than the next five highest metros combined.
The New York metro area—which includes New York City, Northern New Jersey, and Long Island—ranks second with 8,693 initial claimants as it continues to struggle with job losses in the financial services industry.
Earlier this year, BlackRock and Morgan Stanley, for example, announced plans to cut 300 and 1,600 workers, respectively. This was a 3% staff reduction for both firms.
In and around the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. area, which is third on our list, some 6,562 workers filed a notice for unemployment insurance associated with mass layoff events last quarter.
Rounding out the top five: Chicago and San Francisco.
Want to know who else made the list? Click here to see all 10 of America’s pink slip capitals.
Note: First quarter 2013 layoff data are preliminary and are subject to revision.