Layoffs Surge In February Despite US Job Gains

February witnessed another surge in U.S. layoffs despite significant reported job gains. That’s the word from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., whose data showed companies enacting changes due in part to new technologies and current market conditions.

Job losses last month reached 84,638, which came in 3% higher than January’s already alarming figure. The February number was also 9% higher than the same month in 2023, which saw 77,770 jobs lost.

This news offset the surprising gains in nonfarm payrolls in January, which reached a robust 353,000. Economists predicted 180,000 new jobs for the first month of 2024.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. Senior Vice President Andrew Challenger noted that the new year saw “a persistent wave of layoffs. Businesses are aggressively slashing costs and embracing technological innovations, actions that are significantly reshaping staffing needs.”

Those “technological innovations” Challenger referred to are artificial intelligence.

The firm reported that the cuts consisted of 37,659 for restructuring purposes, 26,272 for business closures, 20,980 for cost-cutting programs and 19,580 were due to market conditions or economic factors.

January obviously followed December’s Christmas season, but the job market still suffered an alarming 136% month-over-month increase in layoffs.

As for February, the total was the highest recorded in the U.S. since 2009. That was during the height of the Great Recession.

Interestingly, it is the technology sector that is the hardest hit by the recent waves of layoffs. Certainly AI developments played a large role in trimming the tech workforces of some major players.

This sector led the way with 28,218 job losses so far this year, 12,412 of which came in February. While this is a concerning figure, it is far overshadowed by the staggering 63,216 cuts suffered in the tech industry during the first two months of 2023.

Trending in the opposite direction is the financial industry. It suffered 26,856 cuts during the first two months of 2024, representing a 56% increase from the same period last year.

Industrial manufacturing, education, transportation, food and energy companies reported significant increases in job losses compared to last year.