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Which industries have laid off the highest number of workers in 2023?

More than 3 million workers have been laid off this year, but many have been able to find a new job quickly. Which sectors have seen the highest job cuts?

More than 3 million workers have been laid off this year, but many have been able to find a new jobs quickly. Which sectors have seen the highest job cuts?

Layoffs at major corporations like Amazon, Microsoft, and Meta have made headlines as these businesses adjust their business practices to current economic conditions. However, workers far beyond those employed in the tech sector have been impacted by job losses.

So far this year, around 3.3 million workers have been laid off: nearly 1.8 million in January and an additional 1.5 million in February. Compared to this time last year, layoffs and discharges (i.e., another involuntary separation category) are up thirteen percent. This news comes as the number of workers leaving their jobs voluntarily (i.e., quitting) has fallen by nine percent compared to the levels recorded in the first two months of 2022. These preliminary data points indicate that the labor market is tightening since the rate at which workers are choosing to leave their posts is declining, just as the pace of layoffs ticked up.

Which sectors have seen the highest number of layoffs?

With 901,000 layoffs and discharges recorded in January and February 2023, firms classified by the BLS as “professional and business servicestakes the number one spot. Firms in this industry include those that are contracted to provide services like facilities management, security services, consulting, research and technical services, accounting, and more.

Workers in the “Trade, transportation, and utilities” sector saw the second highest number of layoffs at 615,000.

It is important to note that the number of employees in these sectors has not fallen as layoffs rise since more workers have been hired than let go over the same period. “Leisure and hospitality,” “Construction,” and “Retail trade” follow these two industries in terms of layoffs and discharges when looking at the nominal changes.

Industries with the highest number of layoffs and discharges

Industry  Layoffs (Jan and Feb 2023)
Professional and business services  901
Trade, Transporation, and Utilities  615
Leisure and hospitality 388
Construction 336
Retail trade 294

Looking at layoffs as a percent of the workforce across industries

Though, when one examines the rate at which layoffs have impacted workers across industries, the list shifts slightly.

In the first two months of the year, 4.2 percent of workers in the “Construction” industry were laid off. Since November 2022, the unemployment rate for workers has risen from 3.9 to 6.6 percent. In part, an increase is to be expected since construction tends to slow during the colder months of the year.

With 3.9 percent of workers in the “Professional and business services” having been laid off, this industry comes in second on this metric. While the total number of people employed in this industry has increased, the unemployment rate has also risen from 3.6 percent in late 2022 to 4.2 percent in February.

The “Information” industry covers a broad range of sectors, from motion picture production and music recording to broadcasting and telecommunications to data processing and hosting services. In January and February, 3.4 percent of workers were laid off or discharged involuntarily. The unemployment rate for “Information” workers has risen by 1.2 percent since November, when the figure recorded was 2.1 percent.


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