Election Issue 2016: America's Biggest Layoffs of the Past 25 Years

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

 

Hewlett-Packard recently announced a 33,000-employee layoff, a reduction that represents approximately 10 percent of the company’s workforce. As the PC market has declined, HP has struggled to find a foothold in key markets like mobile and software.

Analysts suggest that the layoff—along with new offerings in cloud computing, security and data analytics—will help boost earnings while the company explores new opportunities.

But just how big is HP’s announcement compared to other famous American layoffs?

Company research site FindTheCompany turned to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas to visualize the biggest layoffs at U.S. companies. The firm is the oldest executive outplacement organization in America and the leading aggregator of workforce reduction data.

The data includes layoff announcements from the early ‘90s through today. Note that the numbers are based on officially announced figures, not actual totals. As we’ll see below, some layoffs grow far past the initial, announced estimate.

We’ll start with the overall list, then highlight a few key charts and insights.

 

HP’s recent announcement ranks 11th on the list, and also stands as the biggest announced layoff at a tech company since 1993.

That said, HP’s 2012 layoff—which the company originally pegged at 27,000—quietly ballooned to 55,000 as the years wore on. Time will tell whether the 2015 layoff follows a similar trend.

Though HP ranks highly, IBM tops the list. The computing powerhouse dominated the ‘80s before corporate fat, rigidity and wasteful projects nearly cratered the company in the early ‘90s. Former CEO Lou Gerstner spearheaded the notoriously painful 1993 layoffs, though history suggests it was the right call. Following the reduction, the company gradually flipped from red to black—from $8 billion in losses (1993) to $8 billion in profit (2001).

Other big ‘90s layoffs include Sears (1993, when it shut down its classic catalog business) and AT&T (1996, when it split into three separate companies in a massive corporate restructuring).

Outside of the private sector, government cuts have loomed large. After several years of military expansion under former President George Bush, the Obama administration scaled back the U.S. Army by 50,000 in 2011, a reduction that now ranks as the fourth biggest layoff announcement since the early ‘90s.

Meanwhile, the United States Postal Service performed three waves of cuts, for a total of 90,000 laid-off workers since the turn of the millennium. Parcel delivery services like UPS may have found ways to benefit from technological innovation, but classic snail mail has become less relevant every year.

And then there is the 2008 financial crisis, a downturn that hit banks and automotive companies particularly hard. Citigroup and General Motors stand out among their industries as the most telltale victims.

The chart below aggregates layoffs by industry, with government, automotive and computer companies holding three of the top four spots:

 

One other victim we haven’t mentioned? Retail. With the rise of Amazon and eBay, retailers across the nation have been forced to lay off thousands of employees—most notably, Kmart (2003), Circuit City (2009), Ames Department Stores (2002) and Winn-Dixie (2005). All together, retail reductions have combined for the largest aggregate layoff count in the private sector.

For a slightly different view of the data, consider the overall company layoff ranking with separate reductions combined:

 

HP’s 2015 announcement vaults the company into the second spot, behind only the United States Postal Service.

Finally, this last chart shows the number of layoffs by year. Predictably, layoffs tend to come hand-in-hand with economic recessions, as we see reductions clumping around both 2002 and 2008.

 

Note that the data in these charts aggregates only the layoffs from the top 30 announcements, not all layoffs.

Explore Over 30 Million Companies on FindTheCompany

Haute Tease

  • Learning to Drive Review - An Adventure Worth Taking

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Learning to Drive, from Broad Green Pictures, presents a contemporary coming of age drama, of modernity and tradition, of culture, guiding principles, the marriage of ying and yang and the desire to fully embrace change.

     
  • Dry Creek Valley On Tour Brings More Than 25 Sonoma County Wineries To Los Angeles

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Experience a taste of Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley on February 20, when more than 25 of the region’s wineries pour more than 100 wines at Culver City’s Smashbox Studios, alongside gourmet food pairings prepared by Food Network Chef Bob Blumer.

     
  • Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto and Ontaro-Based Levenswater Gin Make A Perfect Pairing For A Spring Botanical Afternoon Tea

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto welcomes spring with a Botanical Afternoon Tea in partnership with award-winning Niagara Region artisanal gin producer Levenswater and their carefully-crafted Spring 34 gin. Gin-inspired menu offers aromatic delights to afternoon tea-goers and gin connoisseurs alike.  

  • LEAST AMONG SAINTS, a Tough and Tender Tearjerker from Director Martin Papazian

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

     

    LEAST AMONG SAINTS, a moving drama of hope and compassion, recently held a private screening and reception for select members of the media, donors and the films Volunteers Of America partner at the ICM Building in Century City, California.

     
  • Money News: Global Markets Shook, Rattled and Rolled With All Eyes on Greece

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The DOW Jones Industrial Average managed to escape the growling bear and the global fallout from the turbulent Grecian financial meltdown to close the week with a respectable gain as did the majority of the top ten watched global markets.

     
  • Six Unique Food, Wine & Operations Experiences Found on Princess Cruises Vacations

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    ORLANDO, Fla. (Jan 21, 2014) – The cruise travel experts at Cruises-N-More  share most interesting things about a cruise vacation on a Princess cruise, having  known Princess Cruises since the late 1970's when the line had just three ships––now they have 17.

     
  • Beltway Insider: Obama Shifts on Putin; ISIS/Boko Haram Update; Oklahoma City Bombing; NH Politics

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    President Obama has maintained a strong conviction to hold Russian President Putin responsible for violating the territorial sovereignty of neighboring Ukraine more than a year ago as sectorial sanctions have driven the Russian economy downward the beleaguered soviet leader wants equality and unity restored.

     
  • The Second Story Liquor Bar Review - Divine Dining By Design

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Crazy. Sexy. Cool. No, I’m not referring to the gals of the famed pop music trio TLC, but rather Scottsdale’s hottest new haunt—The Second Story Liquor Bar. This eclectic eatery is trending as the see-and-be-seen Old town Scottsdale hotspot, and with good reason. The vintage-inspired vibe and visionary victuals at this intimate dining and imbibing venue are as distinctive as they are delightful.

     
  • MIB 3: A Laugh Out Loud Trip Back In Time from Director Barry Sonnenfeld

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Men in Black 3, a high speed, hi-jinks, trip back in time alien adventure, from Sony Pictures Entertainment/Columbia Films and Amblin Entertainment recently held its Los Angeles media screening in Century City, California.

     
  • Notre-Dame Tentée Par Le Privé ?

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    L'incendie de Notre-Dame de Paris pose en filigrane la question du financement des travaux d'entretien des édifices religieux placés sous le contrôle d'un Etat endetté et tenté par l'appel au privé pour sauver un patrimoine au temps compté.  

  • Luxe Therapy Hair Essentials - A Game Changer For Haircare

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    LOS ANGELES, CA (May 8, 2013): Luxe Therapy Hair Essentials and Nicole Ari Parker's Save Your Do have joined forces to offer tools to women that aid and abet in maintaining not only your hair's style but the health of both your hair and scalp. After meeting at the Spectrum International Beauty Expo in March the entrepreneurs Crystal Haynes and Nicole Ari Parker were mutually impressed with each other’s beauty solutions and decided to collaborate.

     
  • Celebrities Partner with OCEANA to Restore Worlds Oceans

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    OCEANA, founded in 2001, is the largest ocean protection group in the world dedicated to restoring, implementing and protecting the world’s oceans. 

     
  • Train Derailment Exposes Deeper Infrastructure Problem

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Upper Manhattanites have faced an unprecedented week with three major unrelated crisis' that tested emergency services and first responders and have even the most resilient New Yorker’s, known for their steely nerves, feeling somewhat jittery.

     
  • Beltway Insider: Trump Attends G20; Redefines Position; NASA; Scalise/ICU; Grenfell Tower Investigation

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    President Donald Trump has once again fumbled Presidential protocol and allowed his daughter, a positioned adviser to the President, to take his place during meetings with G7 Heads of State at the recent G20 Summit.

     
  • Prince William, Kate and Business Mogul Renzo Rossi Partner with CharityStars.com, The U.K.’s Leading Charitable Foundation, To Raise Funds, Awareness

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    With a little less than 72 hours available to bid on Prince William and Kate's Range Rover, CharityStars.com has introduced their newest campaign with Business Mogul Renzo Rossi raising funds for earthquake ravaged Italy.