Biggest Layoffs of the 21st Century

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As the U.S. economic expansion heads into its ninth year, the worst recession since the Great Depression is receding into memory. The layoffs that whipsawed the economy during the downturn and idled 8.8 million workers have become less frequent.

Yet the labor market is still occasionally disrupted by forces beyond its control. In addition to traditional threats from foreign competition, the newer challenges to jobs come from within through processes such as online commerce and automation.

While no industry has been spared these convulsive changes, some — such as retail, automotive, and finance — have been shaken more than others. Amazon has transformed the retail industry, while Uber has rattled the taxi and car service sector. Public-sector jobs were not protected either, as the ranks of teachers, postal workers, and those serving in the military were trimmed.

While the worst of the layoffs occurred during the recession of 2007 to 2009 or in the aftermath of the 9-11 terror attacks, many American workers have received pink slips since the recession ended in June 2009.

247 Wall St. used data provided by Chicago employment consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas to compile this list of the biggest individual layoff announcements of the 21st century — layoffs of 20,000 workers or more. Challenger, Gray & Christmas’ sources for layoff announcements included filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, WARN notices (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act), company press releases, and media reports.

Some companies, such as computer company Hewlett-Packard and automaker General Motors, appear more than once on the list, reflecting the ongoing tumult in their respective industries. The announced job figures are not cumulative totals, and the actual layoffs may have occurred over time after the announcement.

Click here to see the biggest announced layoffs of this century.