From January 2007 through December 2009, 6.9 million workers were displaced from jobs they had held for at least three years, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on August 26. This was nearly twice as many as were displaced for the survey period covering January 2005 to December 2007. In January 2010, about half of displaced workers were re-employed, down from about two-thirds for the prior survey in January 2008. The more recent period includes the recession that began in December 2007. In contrast, the prior survey covered a period of employment growth and declining unemployment.

Since 1984, the Employment and Training Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor has sponsored surveys that collect information on workers who were displaced from their jobs. These surveys have been conducted biennially as supplements to the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly survey of households that is the primary source of information on the nation's labor force.

Displaced workers are defined as persons 20 years of age and older who lost or left jobs because their plant or company closed or moved, there was insufficient work for them to do, or their position or shift was abolished. The period covered in this study was 2007-2009, the three calendar years prior to the January 2010 survey date. The following analysis focuses primarily on the 6.9 million persons who had worked for their employer for three or more years at the time of displacement (referred to as long-tenured). An additional 8.5 million persons were displaced from jobs they had held for less than three years (referred to as short-tenured). Combining the short- and long-tenured groups, the number of displaced workers totaled 15.4 million from 2007-09, up from 8.3 million for the period covered by the prior survey (2005-2007).

Highlights from the January 2010 survey include:

  • In January 2010, 49 percent of the 6.9 million long-tenured displaced workers were re-employed, down from 67 percent for the prior survey in January 2008. This is lowest re-employment rate on record for the series, which began in 1984.
  • Forty-three percent of long-tenured displaced workers cited insufficient work as the reason for their displacement, up from 24 percent for the previous survey.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 long-tenured displaced workers lost a job in manufacturing.

Among long-tenured workers who were displaced from full-time wage and salary jobs and who were re-employed in such jobs, 45 percent had earnings that were as much or more than those on the lost job. This was lower than the proportion in January 2008, when 55 percent of those workers had earnings equal to or greater than those on the lost job.

Characteristics of the Re-employed
Forty-nine percent of the 6.9 million long-tenured displaced workers were re-employed at the time of the survey in January 2010, down from 67 percent for the January 2008 survey. The proportion unemployed at the time of the most recent survey, 36 percent, was double the proportion in January 2008 (18 percent). Fifteen percent of long-tenured displaced workers were not in the labor force in January 2010, the same as in the previous survey.

In January 2010, re-employment rates for workers ages 20 to 24 and 25 to 54 were 55 and 53 percent, respectively. Re-employment rates for older workers – ages 55 to 64 and 65 years and over – were 39 and 23 percent, respectively. Among most age groups, displaced workers were less likely to be employed and more likely to be unemployed than they were in the prior survey. Among those age 65 and over, 45 percent were no longer in the labor force when surveyed in January 2010, down from 69 percent in January 2008.

Among the displaced, men and women (49 percent) were equally likely to have found a new job at the time of the survey in January 2010. The re-employment rates for both men and women declined from the prior survey. Displaced men were somewhat more likely than displaced women to be unemployed at the time of the survey – 39 vs. 31 percent. The share of displaced women who had left the labor force, at 20 percent, was greater than that for men – 12 percent.

In January 2010, the re-employment rates for long-tenured displaced whites (50 percent), Hispanics (49 percent), blacks (43 percent) and Asians (38 percent) declined from the rates recorded in the January 2008 survey.

Reason for Job Loss and Receipt of Advance Notice
Of the 6.9 million long-tenured workers displaced during the January 2007 through December 2009 period, 43 percent cited insufficient work, 31 percent lost or left their jobs due to plant or company closings or moves, and 27 percent reported that their position or shift was abolished as the reason for being displaced. The proportion of displaced workers citing plant closings or moves or an abolished shift or position decreased from the prior survey, while the share reporting insufficient work increased. In prior displaced worker survey periods, plant or company closings or moves had been the most frequently stated reason for displacement.

Thirty-seven percent of long-tenured displaced workers in the January 2010 survey received written advance notice that their jobs would be terminated, down from 43 percent in the prior survey. Workers who lost jobs due to plant or company closings or moves were most likely to receive written advance notice. Of this group, 55 percent received such notice. In contrast, 37 percent of workers who were displaced because their position or shift was abolished and 24 percent of those who lost jobs due to insufficient work were notified in advance. For each of these groups, however, receipt of written advance notice had little impact on the likelihood of being re-employed at the time of the survey in January 2010.

Industry and Occupation
As was the case in prior surveys, manufacturing accounted for the largest number of displaced workers. During the 2007-2009 period 1.6 million factory workers were displaced from their jobs – 23 percent of all long-tenured displaced workers. Manufacturing displacements were again concentrated within the durable goods component (1.1 million), particularly in transportation equipment and in computers and electronic products. Workers in wholesale and retail trade accounted for 14 percent, and construction made up 13 percent of all long-tenured displaced.

The re-employment rates for workers displaced from construction (49 percent) and wholesale and retail trade (49 percent) were the same as the overall re-employment rate for displaced workers. (Workers were not necessarily re-employed in the same industries from which they were displaced.) By comparison, re-employment rates for workers displaced from jobs in financial activities (58 percent), education and health services (57 percent), and government (55 percent) were above the overall re-employment rate. Displaced manufacturing workers (39 percent) were the least likely to be re-employed at the time of the survey.

Compared with the prior survey, the number of displaced workers was higher for all occupation groups in January 2010. Re-employment rates differed by occupation, but were highest for those employed in professional and related occupations (60 percent) and lowest for those in production occupations (37 percent).

Geographic Divisions
Compared to the prior survey period, the number of long-tenured workers displaced during 2007-2009 was higher in every geographic division of the United States. In January 2010, those residing in the West North Central division had the highest re-employment rates; about 60 percent of the displaced in this region were re-employed at the time of the survey. About one-quarter of displaced manufacturing workers lived in the East North Central division.

Earnings
Of the 2.9 million displaced workers who lost full-time wage and salary jobs during the 2007-2009 period and were re-employed in January 2010, 2.2 million had found full-time wage and salary jobs. Of these re-employed full-time workers who reported earnings on their lost job, 45 percent were earning as much or more than they did prior to displacement; the proportion was 55 percent in the January 2008 survey. In the most recent survey, 36 percent reported earnings losses of 20 percent or more.

Total Displaced Workers (With No Tenure Restriction)
The total number of workers displaced between January 2007 and December 2009 (regardless of how long they had held their jobs) was 15.4 million, up by 7.2 million from the previous survey period. Of the total number of workers who lost jobs over the 2007-2009 period, 49 percent were re-employed and 36 percent were unemployed in January 2010. In the January 2008 survey, 67 percent of the total displaced were re-employed and 19 percent were unemployed