New research shows that layoffs announce by U.S.-based employers in July rose 576% year over year to 262,649. The number was up by 54% from June. It is another signal that the jobs picture in America remains dim and that recent employment improvements have started to taper off in the past several weeks. COVID-19 infections have spread widely in the past few weeks too.
The data was compiled by employment consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. The only two months that have been worse since the firm began their research were 671,129 back in April and 397,016 in May. The July cuts raise the 2020 total to 1,847,696, or 212% more than the 592,556 cuts at this time in 2019, when the U.S. labor market was extremely strong. Andrew Challenger, senior vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, commented: “The downturn is far from over, especially as COVID cases rise around the country. Consumers are buying fewer goods and services, businesses are closing, and bankruptcies are rising.”
The largest number of layoffs comes from what Challenger, Gray calls entertainment/leisure companies. This segment includes bars, restaurants, hotels and amusement parks. Total cuts numbered 109,940 in July. This was an 18% increase over the industry’s 92,954 cuts announced in June. Entertainment and leisure layoffs were also a breathtaking 21,976% jump over the 498 figure from July of last year.
These portions of the economy continue to be shattered by the pandemic, which has kept millions of Americans in lockdown, practicing social distancing and the wearing of masks in some parts of the country, and indoor dining is still prohibited. Some theme parks, notably Disney parks, have been open, but attendance has been sparse. As the COVID-19 spread has ignited across many of the southern and western states, a nationwide recovery in these industries will be nearly impossible.
The other badly damaged industry identified by Challenger is retail. Announced layoffs in the industry were the second-highest number among job cuts this year at 163,112, which is 196% higher than the 55,167 cuts announced through the same period in 2019. Many retailers have not reopened at all and rely on e-commerce for sales. A number of them have filed Chapter 11, another reason recovery is unlikely.
There were two bright spots. One was linked primarily to e-commerce and the other to the public sector. Warehousing posted 100,340 job additions, mainly because of online shopping. Governments at various levels plan to add 22,024 jobs.
Looking across the entire landscape of the Challenger study, far more industries are in deep trouble than those that have posted even the most modest of recoveries. For the time being, the safety net for jobs and income in America is not the private sector, nor is it likely to be in the next several months.