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Industries that laid off the most workers in May

Layoffs are down from a year ago, but job cuts across major U.S. employers and rising unemployment across nearly half of states are leaving Americans anxious and uncertain.

Layoffs among major employers, including Google and Tesla, have driven the narrative. May layoffs were up 7% from the previous month and 8% from 2023. That represents about 123,000 more layoffs nationwide in May 2024 compared to the same time last year. Notably, 2023 saw a major spike in job losses, with about 2 million more layoffs than the previous year; these levels still remained far below pre-COVID levels, at 19.8 million layoffs in 2023 compared to 21.8 million in 2019.

Despite layoffs in certain sectors, key indicators reflect a stable job market. The May layoff rate held steady at 1%, as did the national unemployment rate, at or below 4%; both figures have remained constant since early 2022. On the job front, openings are still elevated compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Despite persistent inflation and high interest rates, many economists and Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen agree that the U.S. economy is poised for a "soft landing." This type of landing would be signaled by ongoing monthly job creation, moderate gross domestic product growth, and inflation finally hitting the Federal Reserve's 2% target—though the jobless rate may slowly rise. Americans are likely to remain fiscally wary, saving funds in case of a future downturn.

Stacker used Bureau of Labor Statistics data to rank 19 major industries by the number of layoffs in May 2024 to see which industries have been most affected by new layoffs. The analysis uses seasonally adjusted data. Numbers for the month are preliminary and may be updated.

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#19. Mining and logging

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- May 2024 layoffs: 5,000

--- Change from prior month: No change

--- Change from May 2023: -1,000

- May 2024 layoff rate: 0.9% (Rank: #10)

--- Change from prior month: +0.1 percentage points

--- Change from May 2023: -0.1 percentage points

The mining and logging industry includes oil and gas workers and workers who cut timber and produce wood for residential construction. Worldwide, as economies shift toward clean energy, analysts expect more than 400,000 mining workers to be laid off by 2035—largely in China and India, but also in the U.S. and other countries. U.S. logging jobs are also projected to decline over the next decade as the industry adopts more advanced machinery and demand decreases for logging, particularly as tech advancements replace the need for virgin paper products.

#18. Federal government

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- May 2024 layoffs: 7,000

--- Change from prior month: No change

--- Change from May 2023: -1,000

- May 2024 layoff rate: 0.2% (Rank: #19)

--- Change from prior month: No change

--- Change from May 2023: -0.1 percentage points

Congress set the federal budget six months late this year. Federal employees were at risk of being furloughed several times during the budget process as the government narrowly avoided shutdowns. Some federal agencies saw cuts, including NASA, the Department of Education, and the Environmental Protection Agency, which likely means fewer jobs in those agencies and others that saw budgets slashed.

#17. Private educational services

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- May 2024 layoffs: 30,000

--- Change from prior month: -1,000

--- Change from May 2023: +9,000

- May 2024 layoff rate: 0.8% (Rank: #12)

--- Change from prior month: No change

--- Change from May 2023: +0.2 percentage points

The nation's educational services industry comprises private school teachers and college professors, employees of education technology companies, and nontraditional educators like online tutors. Colleges had been struggling with a decline in overall enrollment for a decade by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which further exacerbated the situation. Some in the industry fear institutions may downsize.

#16. Real estate and rental and leasing

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- May 2024 layoffs: 33,000

--- Change from prior month: +4,000

--- Change from May 2023: +17,000

- May 2024 layoff rate: 1.3% (Rank: #5)

--- Change from prior month: +0.1 percentage points

--- Change from May 2023: +0.6 percentage points

The real estate industry was among the first to feel the effects of rising interest rates. Thousands of real estate agents and brokers lost their jobs as rates began increasing and inventory remained squeezed. High rates and prices inherently limit real estate activity.

#14. Information (tie)

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- May 2024 layoffs: 36,000

--- Change from prior month: +8,000

--- Change from May 2023: No change

- May 2024 layoff rate: 1.2% (Rank: #7)

--- Change from prior month: +0.3 percentage points

--- Change from May 2023: No change

The information industry includes many tech companies, which slashed jobs throughout 2023—a trend continuing in 2024. Executives cited recession concerns, efficiency, and artificial intelligence as drivers for these layoffs. Google has more layoffs coming this year, as do other major tech leaders. Many of these companies sit at the intersection of tech and media, which is another large segment of the information industry. Media companies have already announced vast layoffs in 2024, continuing last year's trend.

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#14. State and local government, excluding education (tie)

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- May 2024 layoffs: 36,000

--- Change from prior month: No change

--- Change from May 2023: -7,000

- May 2024 layoff rate: 0.4% (Rank: #17)

--- Change from prior month: No change

--- Change from May 2023: -0.1 percentage points

State and local government jobs took a while to recover from COVID-19 drops. Record federal rescue funds kept Americans spending amid the COVID-19 recession, putting ample money back into some state tax coffers. But those funds have dried up, and many governments are looking at significant budget shortfalls again, which likely means cutting employees.

#13. Wholesale trade

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- May 2024 layoffs: 40,000

--- Change from prior month: -7,000

--- Change from May 2023: -11,000

- May 2024 layoff rate: 0.6% (Rank: #14)

--- Change from prior month: -0.2 percentage points

--- Change from May 2023: -0.2 percentage points

Wholesale trade companies are intermediaries that don't necessarily advertise their business to consumers. They operate in the background, buying inventory from manufacturers and reselling it to retailers. An American working in wholesale may be employed by Costco or a medical wholesaler like McKesson. Wholesale trade is another industry is not currently facing a worker shortage, so its employers may also have more confidence to make layoffs.

#12. State and local government education

Monkey Business Images // Shutterstock

- May 2024 layoffs: 41,000

--- Change from prior month: +3,000

--- Change from May 2023: +3,000

- May 2024 layoff rate: 0.4% (Rank: #17)

--- Change from prior month: No change

--- Change from May 2023: No change

Public school teachers are in the state and local government education sector. This field has struggled to attract and retain teachers over the last decade as public school funding has dried up. Record inflation has made teaching wages close to unlivable in some places as conservative elected officials have slashed public education funding. Public schools may be forced to cut teachers if costs rise to unmanageable levels.

#11. Finance and insurance

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- May 2024 layoffs: 42,000

--- Change from prior month: +1,000

--- Change from May 2023: +8,000

- May 2024 layoff rate: 0.6% (Rank: #14)

--- Change from prior month: No change

--- Change from May 2023: +0.1 percentage points

Finance and insurance companies enjoyed an employment boom in recent years, spurred by the onset of the pandemic. Americans cooped up in their apartments and houses leaped at the chance to secure larger homes for themselves at historically low interest rates. In today's high-interest rate environment, these firms may find themselves poorly equipped to keep all their workers on payroll. Industry giants resorted to sizable layoffs in 2023, with Citigroup following suit this year.

#10. Nondurable goods manufacturing

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- May 2024 layoffs: 49,000

--- Change from prior month: -3,000

--- Change from May 2023: -11,000

- May 2024 layoff rate: 1.0% (Rank: #8)

--- Change from prior month: -0.1 percentage points

--- Change from May 2023: -0.2 percentage points

The phrase "nondurable goods" refers to any item consumers can purchase that will go bad if left on a shelf for too long or will only provide the consumer with a single use before it's gone. These items include food and cleaning products, as well as cigarettes. Employers in the food production industry, in particular, are laying off workers in higher numbers than in recent history. Automation, labor costs, climate change, and immigration policies are all factors affecting the industry.

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#9. Other services

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- May 2024 layoffs: 62,000

--- Change from prior month: +32,000

--- Change from May 2023: +23,000

- May 2024 layoff rate: 1.0% (Rank: #8)

--- Change from prior month: +0.5 percentage points

--- Change from May 2023: +0.3 percentage points

The so-called "other services" category of American industry covers service-oriented work that doesn't fit neatly into any other category. It includes jobs like equipment repair, religious work, and end-of-life care, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The category is an eclectic mix, so it's hard to pin down what trends beyond the overarching economy impact fluctuations in layoffs in this category.

#8. Durable goods manufacturing

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- May 2024 layoffs: 71,000

--- Change from prior month: -13,000

--- Change from May 2023: -8,000

- May 2024 layoff rate: 0.9% (Rank: #10)

--- Change from prior month: -0.1 percentage points

--- Change from May 2023: -0.1 percentage points

Durable goods include any item purchased that gets reused over time and does not expire. These can be plastic storage bins, children's toys, and even technology like smartphones. Manufacturing of durable goods saw a boom in the first two years of the pandemic as consumers spent their incomes on things they could safely enjoy from their homes. Some of those manufacturers have had to scale back head counts as consumer demand has dropped off in the goods-producing sector and moved into services—and as inflation has limited consumers' spending power.

#7. Arts, entertainment, and recreation

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- May 2024 layoffs: 73,000

--- Change from prior month: +5,000

--- Change from May 2023: +13,000

- May 2024 layoff rate: 2.7% (Rank: #1)

--- Change from prior month: +0.1 percentage points

--- Change from May 2023: +0.3 percentage points

The arts and entertainment sector faced new challenges last year. TV and movie writers were on strike for nearly five months over pay and other issues, and actors walked out, too. While new contracts have resolved both strikes, Hollywood remains tumultuous as the streaming economy challenges the entertainment sector. Pixar, Amazon Prime Video, and Universal Music Group have been among the entertainment companies that cut jobs in 2024.

#6. Transportation, warehousing, and utilities

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- May 2024 layoffs: 113,000

--- Change from prior month: +11,000

--- Change from May 2023: +20,000

- May 2024 layoff rate: 1.6% (Rank: #4)

--- Change from prior month: +0.2 percentage points

--- Change from May 2023: +0.3 percentage points

The transportation, warehousing, and utilities industry encompasses the massive supply chain in the U.S., which experienced unending hiccups and shocks throughout the last several years. The pandemic pushed the supply chain to ramp up, and more recently, it's over capacity with lower demand levels. Now, trucking, flight, and other companies built around moving freight are going bankrupt or shuttering operations, and their employees are finding themselves out of a job. UPS is the latest major player to announce a massive sweep of layoffs this year.

#5. Retail trade

Monkey Business Images // Shutterstock

- May 2024 layoffs: 122,000

--- Change from prior month: -6,000

--- Change from May 2023: -101,000

- May 2024 layoff rate: 0.8% (Rank: #12)

--- Change from prior month: No change

--- Change from May 2023: -0.6 percentage points

Retail trade is one of the largest employers in the country, including retail floor workers as well as those employed within the many corporate branches at retail giants like Target and Kroger. Inflation has tightened wallets, limiting individuals' spending and leaving retail establishments to feel the initial impacts. In 2023, retail giants, including Walmart and Nordstrom, announced cuts to their workforces—largely among corporate employees. Those layoffs have continued in 2024 at companies like Nike, REI, Macy's, and Wayfair.

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#4. Health care and social assistance

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- May 2024 layoffs: 144,000

--- Change from prior month: -3,000

--- Change from May 2023: +10,000

- May 2024 layoff rate: 0.6% (Rank: #14)

--- Change from prior month: -0.1 percentage points

--- Change from May 2023: No change

The American health care industry is at a crisis point without enough nurses or doctors to care for an aging population, and many of those health professionals burned out providing care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, institutions such as hospitals are struggling with finances, moving them to cut services that don't produce profits—and the employees that go with them.

#3. Construction

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- May 2024 layoffs: 147,000

--- Change from prior month: -5,000

--- Change from May 2023: +14,000

- May 2024 layoff rate: 1.8% (Rank: #2)

--- Change from prior month: -0.1 percentage points

--- Change from May 2023: +0.1 percentage points

The high interest rates the Fed implemented to stunt inflation slowed the greater real estate market and, by extension, construction. Residential and commercial construction bear the brunt of the slowdown as fewer individuals are in a place to buy homes, and not as many companies can afford to revamp or expand offices and storefronts. This is in stark contrast to 2021 when record-low interest rates created a surge in demand for real estate.

#2. Accommodation and food services

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- May 2024 layoffs: 179,000

--- Change from prior month: +17,000

--- Change from May 2023: +10,000

- May 2024 layoff rate: 1.3% (Rank: #5)

--- Change from prior month: +0.2 percentage points

--- Change from May 2023: +0.1 percentage points

The accommodation and food services industry comprises hotels, restaurants, and fast-food chains that employ tens of millions of Americans. These leisure services have largely recovered from COVID-era struggles, though record inflation has tempered some of that recovery. Higher costs of essential expenses mean there is less left over for Americans to treat themselves by dining out or taking a trip. Inflation at restaurants is higher than that of groceries, and in many establishments, technology is taking orders and replacing cashiers.

#1. Professional and business services

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- May 2024 layoffs: 425,000

--- Change from prior month: +71,000

--- Change from May 2023: +138,000

- May 2024 layoff rate: 1.8% (Rank: #2)

--- Change from prior month: +0.3 percentage points

--- Change from May 2023: +0.5 percentage points

The professional and business services industry includes attorneys, marketing, accountants, and other professionals who support businesses in mostly white-collar positions. Many of these positions have been safe over the past three years as demand from consumers remained hot and companies seemingly couldn't find enough workers to fill jobs. But interest-rate hikes, bank failures, and challenges among other industries serviced by these professionals spell trouble. Tech companies' current struggles, for example, trickle down to business services as firms cut costs.

 

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