In the third quarter of 2008, employers initiated 1,330 mass layoff events, the highest level for the third quarter since 2001, the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.
Mass layoffs are those that involve 50 or more individuals from a single employer.
The mass layoffs in the third quarter of 2008 resulted in the separation of 218,158 workers from their jobs for at least 31 days, the highest level for separations since 2003.
The total number of layoff events was 312 higher in the third quarter 2008 than the same period a year earlier, and the number of associated separations increased by 58,134.
Among the seven categories of economic reasons for layoff, business demand accounted for the highest share of events (43 percent) and number of separations (76,979) in the third quarter of 2008.
The largest over-the-year increases in the number of separations occurred in layoffs attributed to business demand factors (+27,711) and organizational changes (+10,533). Within business demand, the number of separations due to slack work nearly doubled to 41,116, while in organizational changes, layoffs attributed to business- ownership changes more than doubled to 11,692. Within financial issues, the number of workers terminated because of bankruptcies nearly doubled over the year to 12,156.
Permanent closure of worksites occurred in 15 percent of all extended mass layoff events and affected 50,025 workers during the third quarter of 2008. Thirty-one percent of employers reporting a layoff indicated they anticipate some type of recall, down from 38 percent a year earlier and the lowest third quarter proportion since 2002. Excluding seasonal events, employers anticipated recalling workers in 20 percent of the layoffs, matching third quarter 2002 as the lowest proportion for any quarter since data collection began in1995.
The national unemployment rate averaged 6.0 percent, not seasonally adjusted, in the third quarter of 2008, up from 4.7 percent a year earlier. Private nonfarm payroll employment, not seasonally adjusted, decreased by 0.6 percent (-672,000) over the year.