The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that private sector employers implemented a total of 1,638 mass layoffs during fourth quarter 2011 leading to the separation of 266,971 employees from employment for at least one month.
Mass layoff events, which refer to layoffs involving at the separation of at least 50 employees within 31 days, were down over the year from 1,999 events and 338, 643 job separations in fourth quarter 2010. Mass layoffs attributable to work-site closures accounted for 5 percent of events during the quarter and 64 percent of private sector employers reported that they expect some degree of employee recall.
For the period encompassing fourth quarter 2010 through fourth quarter 2011, extended mass layoff events decreased in 13 of 18 major industry sectors. Those industries experiencing the greatest decline in number of mass layoff events included construction and food services sectors. Additionally 14 of the 21 manufacturing subsectors reported decreases in layoff events over the year. Fifty-three percent of manufacturing employers expected to recall some or all of the laid off workers.
Mass layoffs were largely due to seasonal work closures and composed 44 percent of the total events and 42 percent of separations during the quarter. Layoffs due to business demand factors, such as the completion of contracts, represented 34 percent of mass layoff events and accounted for 35 percent of job separations during the period. Seasonal closures leading to mass layoff events experienced the largest decline in job separations over the year.