February's 1,672 Mass Layoffs Highest Since Post-Katrina

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers took 1,672 mass layoff actions, seasonally adjusted, in February. Layoff events and associated initial claimants for the month were the highest since September 2005 (which reflected the impact of Hurricane Katrina) and were the highest for the month of February since 2003. The number of mass layoff events in February 2008 increased by 234 from the prior month, while the number of associated initial claims increased by 33,263.

For the month, 529 mass layoff events were reported in the manufacturing sector, seasonally adjusted, resulting in 66,913 initial claims. Over the month, mass layoff activity in manufacturing increased by 102 events, and initial claims increased by 11,425. The manufacturing sector accounted for 28 percent of all mass layoff events and 36 percent of all related initial claims filed in February; a year earlier, manufacturing made up 29 percent of events and 42 percent of initial claims. In February 2008, the number of manufacturing claimants was highest in transportation equipment manufacturing (12,189, largely in automobile manufacturing), followed by wood product manufacturing (5,576), and electrical equipment and appliance manufacturing (5,327).

Administrative and waste services accounted for 16 percent of mass layoff events and 15 percent of initial claims in February, primarily from temporary help services. Construction comprised 15 percent of events and 11 percent of initial claims, primarily from highway, street, and bridge construction. Retail trade made up 10 percent of all mass layoff events and associated initial claims, mainly from discount department stores. Among the four census regions, the highest number of initial claims in February due to mass layoffs was in the West, 42,178. The national unemployment rate was 4.8 percent, seasonally adjusted, essentially unchanged from January's 4.9 percent, and up from 4.5 percent a year earlier. Total nonfarm payroll employment decreased by 63,000 in February from the previous month, but increased by 860,000 from a year earlier.

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