Tracking Mass Layoffs

by Rachel Vilsack

Does it feel like more companies are laying off large numbers of workers? With news stories announcing staff layoffs and cut backs, it might seem like it. What do the data on mass layoffs tell up about trends in Minnesota?


The Mass Layoff Statistics (MLS) program at the Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks monthly layoff events, or instances where 50 or more workers are separated from their jobs and apply for unemployment insurance in a five-week period. In 2012, 198 mass layoff events affecting more than 17,500 workers were captured. This was nearly half the number of events recorded in 2009, during the Great Recession. Through April 2013, the MLS program documented 40 events impacting 3,057 workers. This is down just slightly from the 41 events and 3,127 workers captured during the first four months of 2012.

Companies lay off workers for a variety of reasons, including declining demand, cost control, reorganization/restructuring, or plant closing. A recent report from researchers at Cornell who’ve looked at the timing of large layoff events found that in the 1970s layoffs followed a U-shape: more at the beginning and end of each year. In the 2000s, layoff announcements seemed to be timed more evenly throughout the year. The researchers attribute this to layoffs being more “routine now than they were in the past.”


If you’ve become unemployed through a layoff, help may be available to you from Minnesota’s Dislocated Worker program. Program participants work one-on-one with a counselor to develop an employment plan that may include career planning and counseling, job search and placement services, counselor-approved training, and other support services. Services are tailored to meet an individual worker’s specific needs.


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