May mass layoffs sharply lower than previous year; lowest level for any May since 2000

June 25, 2004

In May 2004, employers took 988 mass layoff actions, as measured by new filings for unemployment insurance benefits during the month, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. Each action involved at least 50 persons from a single establishment, and the number of workers involved totaled 87,501.

Both the number of events and initial claims were sharply lower than a year ago. The number of mass layoff events was at its lowest level for any May since 2000, and the number of associated initial claims was at its lowest level for any May since 1996. (May 2004 contained four weeks for possible mass layoffs, compared with five weeks in each May of the prior two years.) From January through May 2004, the total number of events, at 6,735, and of initial claims, at 661,024, were lower than in January-May 2003 (8,169 and 799,037, respectively).

The manufacturing sector had 22 percent of all mass layoff events and 25 percent of all initial claims filed in May—the lowest shares for any May since 1995, when the monthly series began. A year ago, manufacturing reported 29 percent of events and 35 percent of initial claims. Within manufacturing, the number of claimants was highest in food processing (3,897), followed by transportation equipment (2,911) and textile product mills (2,820).

Compared with May 2003, the largest decreases in initial claims were reported in transportation equipment manufacturing (-10,432) and administrative and waste services (-9,920). The largest over-the-year increase in initial claims was reported in textile product mills (+1,872).

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