The Biggest Corporate Layoffs of All Time

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11. Hewlett-Packard
> Biggest layoff: 24,600
> Date of layoff: September 2008

One of the reasons former HP (NYSE: HPQ) CEO Mark Hurd was widely admired on Wall Street was the ease with which he cut costs — and headcount. Hurd’s largest cut came after he bought IT consulting firm EDS, which Ross Perot founded. Hurd spent $13.9 billion to diversity beyond HP’s core hardware operations. Once he closed the transaction, he fired 24,600 employees whom he felt would be redundant once the two companies were combined.

10. Daimler Chrysler
> Biggest layoff: 26,000
> Date of layoff: January 2001

Daimler Chrysler’s U.S. operations, known as Chrysler before the two car companies merged, is an example of a large corporation hurt by the 2001 recession. Chrysler said it would chop as many as 15,000 production workers and layoff several thousand management people as well. The company also said it would shutter six of its 41 plants. After nearly a decade, the merger eventually fell apart and Chrysler became independent again in 2007. But that was just in time for the next recession, which drove Chrysler into Chapter 11.

9. U.S. Postal Service
> Biggest layoff: 30,000
> Date of layoff: March 2010

The U.S. Postal Service recently announced it was on the brink of insolvency. The Postmaster General wants to save $2.1 billion a year, which means 28,000 jobs will be cut by 2012. This would not be the first time the USPS has downsized to offset the drop in mail as individuals and industry move to email and overnight carriers. It has been less than two years since the USPS shed 30,000 jobs for the third time for a total of 90,000. These reductions in workforce also aimed to save money and lower losses.

8. Bank of America/Merrill Lynch
> Biggest layoff: 30,000
> Date of layoff: September 2011

Under tremendous pressure from shareholders to cut large losses, particularly in its mortgage business, new Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) CEO Brian Moynihan laid off 30,000 people. He said it would help the bank, which had grown due to M&A activity, cut redundant jobs. Bank of America also said it would exit some of its unprofitable businesses. The financial firm’s headcount was 288,000 before that action. Management hinted there would be more firings in the future. Merril Lynch went on to lay off 25,000 positions in December 2008.

7. Boeing
> Biggest layoff: 31,000
> Date of layoff: September 2001

Boeing (NYSE: BA) was another victim of the 2001 economic slowdown. The recession, and later the 9/11 attacks, hurt air travel. The commercial aircraft division of Boeing, therefore, suffered all the cuts, with the defense segment untouched. The head of the commercial division then was Ford’s current CEO Alan Mulally. When he announced the cuts he said, “We were on a very positive track and this is just a sad thing for all of us.” Boeing had previously had another one of the biggest layoffs. In December 1998 Boeing fired 28,000 workers.

6. Ford
> Biggest layoff: 35,000
> Date of layoff: January 2002

Ford (NYSE: F) began to lay off workers long before the 2007 – 2008 recession put a serious dent in its revenue. In January 2002, when the economy was still in the contraction that began in 2001, the large cuts at Ford were part of the seemingly endless parade of layoffs at other huge American companies, including United Airlines and Target (NYSE: TGT). Only last year, Ford has only begun to add workers again, after the U.S. car industry has had its first good season in the past five. Ford laid off another 23,200 people in January 2006.