Oregon Labor Market Information System
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Mass Layoffs Level Off During 2011-2012
by Chris Greaves
Published Oct-18-2012

The Mass Layoff Statistics program (MLS) monitors the number of private-sector layoffs in a given region. In particular, it focuses on layoffs involving 50 employees or more which last longer than 30 days. These are called "Extended Mass Layoffs." They are initially flagged using initial claims data from the unemployment insurance system. When an establishment reaches a total of 50 initial claims for the specified period, the employer is called to verify that a mass layoff has occurred.

It is not uncommon for a flagged event to not be an extended mass layoff. For example, a factory may close for a week to perform annual maintenance. In that case the company could show several dozen worker claims in the unemployment system, but because the layoff was less than 30 days it would not be included in the MLS totals.

MLS historical data is a useful indicator of turning points in the economy. It is not as precise as, say, total nonfarm employment when anticipating a recession. However MLS data can be like a "canary in a coal mine," as seen in the graph.

In 2011, Oregon had 104 extended mass layoffs, nearly matching the 2010 total of 105 layoffs. This was down considerably from the 219 extended mass layoffs during 2009. The first half of 2012 saw 59 extended mass layoffs. The leveling off of layoffs coincides with a gradual reduction of Oregon's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate.

Data shows that since 2011, layoff events in Oregon settled into a typical, seasonal pattern. Layoffs can be seasonal due to reoccurring events within an industry. Examples include: summer vacation for education and transportation; completing harvest processing for nondurable goods manufacturing; or the end of the holiday season for retail trade. The recent data is a welcome change to the tectonic jumps seen during 2008 and 2009, when the recession played havoc. The fact that no spikes in layoff activity have emerged suggests that Oregon's economy will continue its gradual improvement.

Graph 1
Oregon's extended mass layoffs level off