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September 2008, Vol. 131, No. 9
Extended mass layoffs after 2001: a comparison of New York and the Nation
Bruce J. Bergman
With the largest metropolitan workforce in the Nation, the New York area1 is at or near the top of many lists. Separations due to layoffs, or, simply, layoff separations, are no exception: between 2001 and 2006, New York consistently ranked among the top 10 metropolitan areas in this category. Viewed over the longer period of 11 years for which comparable data are available, extended mass layoff actions2 caused hundreds of thousands of New York area employees to be involuntarily separated from their workplaces. A question that arises, then, is, Was the New York area a standout in terms of layoffs, or did it not differ qualitatively from the Nation in that regard? To answer that question, this article examines data made available for the first time from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Was New York different?
BLS data reveal that the New York area mass layoff experience not only deviated from national trends, but also underwent a significant change after 2001. While the total number of layoffs in the United States declined to the lowest levels recorded since they were first tracked in 1996, New York layoff activity remained at a relatively high level after 2001. Following widespread worker dislocation caused by the recession and the September 11 terrorist attacks that year, what differed between the New York area and the Nation that led to divergent trends in layoff activity after 2001? The analysis that follows examines both the type of layoff and the reasons for its occurrence in the context of varying employment trends among industry sectors.
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1 The New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), as defined by the Office of Management and Budget in Bulletin 06–01, is composed of New York City and Nassau, Putnam, Rockland, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties in New York; Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, and Union Counties in New Jersey, and Pike County, Pennsylvania. For convenience, the New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island MSA is referred to as the New York area, or simply New York, throughout this article.
2 Each extended layoff event causes at least 50 employees to lose work for more than 30 days. If large layoffs occur gradually, in such a way that the requirement of 50 unemployment claims filed in a 5-week period is not reached, then the layoff event is not counted as an extended layoff by the Mass Layoff Statistics program. The 31-day minimum duration for qualification as a layoff limits the focus of the survey program to more permanent job dislocation. Most layoff events involving 50 or more workers last for 30 days or less. Along with the minimum required duration, in cases with no direct job loss, such as employers transferring work elsewhere without laying off workers, no information is collected, even though some displacement may result.
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