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Penny Herscher Headshot

Evidence the U.S. Layoffs Trend Has Peaked

Posted: Updated:

There's a turn in the U.S. employment market happening. There's evidence that the number of layoff announcements and reported layoff events has started to drop. This does not mean the number of job losses will drop yet since announcements precede the actual elimination of jobs, but it is a leading indicator of the turn in the employment market.

Here's the monthly data for the last few months - and you can see the charts and data behind it here.

Number of unique web stories on announced layoffs or reported layoff events in the U.S.
October 08: 754
November 08: 1799
December 08: 2218
January 09: 3268
February 09: 2161

For the last few months it has seemed as if the bad news on layoff announcements just kept growing and as I watched the web news flow on U.S. Layoffs specifically - as you can do too both in the free FirstRain newsletter Eye on the Storm - or on the front page of - it has been like watching a train wreck every day.

But I've also been watching the statistics to look for a turnaround in the trend - and it's started. There is no way to know if this is the turn or a turn in the trend but it is a compelling change in the data and could be a leading indicator of a change in the way companies are dealing with the crisis.

The weekly data (see it here) shows that the number of layoff announcements and reported events climbed through to the end of November - dropped back for the holidays - and then went back into a steep climb with the worst week being the week following the inauguration. This is because between October and January companies realized things were getting very bad very quickly and many acted decisively to manage their businesses in the face of the economic crisis - leading to the horrible job loss statistics we've been seeing. The report published by Watson Wyatt last week also corroborates that many companies have made the sweeping deep cuts and the majority are now focusing are local management measures such as salary freezes and cutting 401(k) contributions to further manage costs.

Note: The FirstRain data is a count of unique articles on the web about a reported layoff event or the announcement of a planned or actual layoff - it's important to count just the original stories (we use technology to do this) because stories get copied, repeated and changed as they ripple through the web.