Mass layoff: An obituary for some dying data


This is an obituary for some data passing into the Great Beyond. On Friday, the U.S. Labor Department released its last report on mass layoffs -- a real mess considering the fragile state of the job market.

Here's what the department wrote to explain the data's demise:

"On March 1, 2013, President Obama ordered into effect the across-the-board spending cuts (commonly referred to as sequestration) required by the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act, as amended. Under the order, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) must cut its current budget by more than $30 million, 5 percent of the current 2013 appropriation, by September 30, 2013. In order to help achieve these savings and protect core programs, the BLS will eliminate two programs, including Mass Layoff Statistics, and all "measuring green jobs" products. This news release is the final publication of monthly mass layoff survey data."

Mass layoffs record the big shut downs, at least 50 people from a single employer.

Here are the highlights from May's report:

There were 1,301 mass layoffs in May, putting 127,821 employees out of work, based on initial unemployment claims filed. Last May, there were 1,370 mass layoffs, putting 131,603 people out of work.

Looking locally, the situation is mixed. In New Jersey, the number of mass layoffs were about the same, 21 this year, 22 last year, but the job loss was worse, with 2,033 filing initial unemployment claims in May 2013, compared to 1,967 a year ago. In Pennsylvania, there were 87 mass layoffs this year, compared to 79 in May, 2012. But fewer lost their jobs -- 7,450 out of work in May compared to 7,483 a year ago.

Based on industry sector, temporary help services got hit hard with 11,779 initial claims being filed. It's not clear what prompted the situation. But it has been a truism that declines in temporary help sometimes herald declines in permanent employment, as employers shed temps before laying off fulltime workers. I think that truism is not as reliable as it once was, given the growth in temporary, or contract, work.

Even so..., it's worrisome, and so is the loss of this important data.