Recent layoff rate down from early '90s Job losses declined 6.7% from earlier in decade


WASHINGTON -- The layoff rate in the mid-1990s declined slightly from the early years of the decade, but remained well above a comparable period a decade earlier, the Labor Department reported yesterday.

The survey, done every two years and providing the most comprehensive count available of jobs lost in this era of downsizing, portrayed a work force still experiencing frequent job losses even as unemployment has shrunk and the economy has expanded at a steady pace.

Some 8.4 million people were pushed out of their jobs involuntarily from 1993 through 1995. That represented one of every 14 jobholders, compared with one of 12 in the early 1990s.

Americans who lost jobs found new ones more easily and in larger numbers than in the early 1990s. The economy has added more than 10 million new jobs since 1993.

But those who were laid off for good from their jobs showed little progress in trying to match their old wages. Only 33 percent earned as much as or more than they had before.

"You still have many layoffs," said Thomas Nardone, a supervising economist at the labor department's Bureau of Labor Statistics, "and if you lose your job, most people don't end up in situations that are as good in terms of earnings as the jobs they lost."

The 8.4 million jobs eliminated represented a decline of 6.7 percent from the 9 million lost in the three years ending in 1993, the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculated. The earlier years were mostly a time of recession and sluggish economic growth.

While the number of jobs lost fell, the figure remains much higher and is declining more slowly than it did in the mid-1980s when the economy was at a similar stage after a recession.

"There is absolutely no evidence here for people who take the gloomy view that job-loss rates are up," said Henry Farber, a Princeton University labor economist.

The Labor Department began its "job displacement" surveys in 1984, when mass job displacements were just becoming a national issue. Those surveys, which measured the elimination of jobs beginning in 1979, found that permanent job losses fell sharply after the 1981-1982 recession, and then rose again for the 1990-1991 recession. (Temporary layoffs are not counted.)

But after the early 1990s recession, layoffs failed to ease as they had before. The data released yesterday showed that, from 1993 through 1995, the jobs of about 7.2 percent of the work force were eliminated. By comparison, at the same stage in the recovery after the early 1980s recession, between 5.5 percent and 6.5 percent of the nation's jobholders were laid off.

The survey showed that permanent job loss in the mid-1990s continued to display the characteristics that first showed up in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

White-collar workers represented 52 percent of those who lost jobs and blue-collar workers 35 percent, much different from the early 1980s, when layoffs were largely a blue-collar phenomenon. Men still edged out women, 56 percent to 44 percent, but women edged up two percentage points from the early 1990s, while men slipped by the same amount.

People in their prime working years, 25 to 54, represented the overwhelming majority of those laid off: 78 percent, up a percentage point from the early 1990s.

The survey, covering 50,000 representative households, found that 73 percent of those who lost their jobs from 1993 through 1995 were employed again when the survey was done last February, compared with 68 percent in the early 1990s. Only 9.8 percent listed themselves as job-hunting and unemployed, down from 13.1 percent in the earlier period.

But wages were another matter. Of the 3.9 million people who lost full-time jobs in the 1993-1994 period, 33 percent had landed new full-time jobs by last February that paid as much as or more than the ones they had lost, the report found. That was up slightly from 31 percent in the early 1990s.

Pub Date: 8/23/96

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