Hospital mass layoffs lower in 2011 than at height of recession

Totals, as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, still are historically high.

By Victoria Stagg Elliott — Posted Feb. 2, 2012

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The number of mass layoffs at hospitals decreased for 2011 compared with 2008, 2009 and 2010, when the recession and the ensuing economic hangover were in full force.

According to data released Jan. 25 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 121 mass layoffs occurred in the hospital setting, leading to 8,098 people claiming unemployment benefits in 2011.

Mass layoffs are defined as affecting at least 50 employees. The layoffs at hospitals are not broken down by occupation, although they tend to affect nonclinical employees much more than clinical staff. In fact, several reports say hospitals are accelerating plans to hire more physicians.

Although the number of mass layoffs and jobs lost were high compared with most years, they were an improvement from recent times.

A total of 137 mass layoffs occurred in hospitals in 2010, leading to at least 10,490 job losses. A total of 152 mass layoffs took place in 2009, the most since the BLS began tracking such data in 1996. Lost jobs that year totaled 11,787. In 2008, hospitals experienced 112 mass layoffs, with at least 9,268 job losses.

The greatest annual number of people affected by a hospital mass layoff happened in 2005 because of closings caused by Hurricane Katrina. There were 97 incidents that year, resulting in 13,282 people filing for unemployment benefits.

The National Bureau of Economic Research said the recession lasted from December 2007 to June 2009.

Most analysts say health care is a lagging economic indicator impacted later in most downturns than other industries.

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Hospital mass layoffs over the years

The pace of mass layoffs in the hospital setting went down slightly in 2011 but is still high. Mass layoffs are defined as affecting at least 50 workers.

Year Mass layoffs Laid-off people claiming
unemployment benefits
1996 95 7,999
1997 75 5,923
1998 90 6,385
1999 83 6,539
2000 94 8,526
2001 53 4,141
2002 90 7,358
2003 100 7,703
2004 90 7,539
2005 97 13,282
2006 57 4,938
2007 67 7,595
2008 112 9,268
2009 152 11,787
2010 137 10,490
2011 121 8,098

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mass layoff statistics database, Jan. 25 (link)

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