The unemployment report released this month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics was filled with good news. While the national unemployment rate ticked up to 9 percent, which was the highest since January, the economy added 244,000 jobs in April, a sure sign of Spring for the country's workforce.
Now, there is still more positive news on the labor front. The BLS released another report last week that disclosed the number of mass layoffs (50 employees or more) was down 26 percent in the first quarter compared to a year ago. There were 1,393 major job cutbacks across the U.S. affecting 190,389 employees. This marked the sixth straight quarter of declining layoffs.
But while it is good news that layoffs are down, they are coming off historical highs. And some people are still being hit hard. Who? To find out we looked at which metro areas had the most employees affected by mass layoffs in the first quarter of this year. Separation had to be more than 30 days to qualify in order to exclude temporary furloughs.
Leading the way is the Los Angeles metro area where 17,393 workers lost their jobs as part of major layoffs in the first three months of the year. Few industries were spared in southern California as the entire state continues to struggle with the economic downturn coupled with high taxes and a strict regulatory environment. UnitedHealthcare, Wells Fargo and Teva Pharmaceutical all announced layoffs in the Los Angeles area during the first quarter.
Beverly Hills-based MySpace announced in January that it would reduce its workforce by 47% affecting 500 employees. MySpace was the most popular social-networking site in the U.S. until 2008, but has been put up for sale by News Corp., which purchased the company in 2005 for $580 million. News Corp is reportedly looking for $100 million in the sale.
One of the biggest rounds of job losses came from Boeing which announced plans to eliminate 1,100 jobs by the end of 2012 as it cuts production of its C-17 Globemaster III airlifter. Approximately 900 of those job losses will occur at the final assembly site located in Long Beach, Calif., 20 miles south of downtown L.A. Boeing promises to provide assistance to workers seeking jobs elsewhere within the $64 billion-in-sales aerospace giant.
In February videogame maker Activision said it would discontinue its popular Guitar Hero franchise. The decision cost 500 employees their jobs, which represents 7% of the company's workforce. Employees at studios in both Los Angeles and the Bay Area were affected by the move.
California is well represented on our list of the areas with the most layoffs as four other cities made the list including: San Francisco (No. 4), Riverside (No. 5), San Diego (No. 6) and Sacramento (No. 9). California leads the way among the 50 states with 390 layoffs statewide which affected 48,497 employees. That is three times more than any other state.
Big metro areas dominate our list as these are the locales that have sizable employers that lay off 50 or more employees at a time. As the economy has stabilized, massive layoffs are down significantly. Only 2.8% of the layoff events in the first quarter involved 500 or more employees which is the lowest percentage since BLS started tracking this data in 1995.
BLS tracks mass layoff data by surveying employers. Some of the other numbers in the report offer more hope about the economy. Of the firms that laid off employees in the first quarter, 49% expect to hire back at least some of the laid-off workers. This is the highest first-quarter percentage since 2005 and up from 38% last year.
The hard hit manufacturing sector got some good news and a certain level of stability. The 34,077 manufacturing jobs lost through layoffs was the lowest quarterly total since at least 1995 when BLS started compiling these figures.