Layoffs Rise to Highest Level for February Since 2009

March 5, 2024

Many American workers weren’t feeling the Valentine’s Day love this February, as layoff announcements hit the highest level for any February since the global financial crisis.

The nation’s employers planned a total of 84,638 layoffs in February, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That is an increase of 3% from January and an increase of 9% from last February.

That is the highest level of layoffs seen in any February since February 2009, when the global economy was deep in the midst of a financial crisis. While this month’s numbers were the worst for any February since then, they are far from the heights seen during that period. February 2009 saw 186,350 layoffs.

Year to date, the nation’s employers have cut 166,945 jobs, a decrease of 7.6% from the same period last year.

Still, Challenger’s report points to a “persistent wave of layoffs” as businesses are “aggressively slashing costs and embracing technological innovations.” 

With a wave of recent high-profile layoff announcements, it is no surprise that tech led the way in cuts this year, shedding 28,218 positions, but that number is actually down 55% compared to the first two months of last year. On the flip side, layoffs at financial firms have jumped 56% when compared to the same period last year.

Luckily, the layoff numbers have not manifested in higher weekly jobless claims, which suggests that workers who are laid off are able to find new employment quickly. Initial filings for unemployment benefits came in at 217,000 last week, unchanged from the previous week and exactly in line with Wall Street estimates.

Challenger found that most of the companies laying off workers cited “restructuring plans” as the primary cause for the layoffs. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been cited in just 383 cuts this year, though the more general “technological updates,” which could include AI, automation, and robotic implementation, were cited in 15,000 cuts. That is nearly as much as all of the years combined since 2007.

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