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Recession produces record number of mass layoffs in NY State

People line up to enter a job fair

People line up to enter a job fair on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010 in Manhattan. Credit: AP

The Great Recession has produced another record statistic: New York State had the highest number of mass layoffs in 2009 since the federal government began tabulating the data annually in 1996.

In 2009, the state logged 1,367 mass layoffs, the first time the number crossed the 1,000 mark, according to a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report. And those mass layoffs resulted in 144,247 unemployment benefits claims, the first time that number surpassed 100,000.

The report counted a staff reduction as a mass layoff when at least 50 workers file an unemployment-benefits claim against a single employer during a five-week period. The data aren't broken out on a county level. "These reflect the state of the economy and give greater detail about unemployment and jobs losses throughout New York," said Michael Dolfman, BLS regional commissioner in Manhattan.

The nation also set a record in 2009 for mass layoffs and claims -- 28,000 mass layoffs and 2.8 million claims.

Through the prism of mass layoffs and unemployment benefits claims, the state data show which industries have been hardest hit by the recession, which began nationally in December 2007.

The transportation and warehousing sector had the highest number of mass layoffs last year: 246. That sector accounted for more than 35,000 unemployment claims, or for roughly one out of every four initial unemployment claims filed in the state last year. Manufacturing had the second highest number of mass layoffs -- 206 -- and nearly 21,000 unemployment insurance claims.

While the data aren't sorted by county, state law requires employers who plan mass layoffs to file a Worker Adjustment and Retaining Notification act notice, or WARN, 90 days in advance.

The criteria differ from the BLS report. A planned layoff triggers a state WARN notice requirement when at least 25 workers are going to be laid off, if they make up 33 percent of a company's workforce, or when an employer lays off at least 250 full-time employees. Some Long Island companies that recently filed WARN notices include Dri Mark Products Inc., a Port Washington highlighter and marker manufacturer that is relocating portions of its business to Mexico and letting go 23 of its 85 workers. The company didn't return repeated calls.

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