On Job Cut Numbers

This past Friday, NBC Nightly News proclaimed that employers had cut only 20,000 jobs in April.

Because I cover layoffs for AIRS News and review reports on an almost daily basis I knew that statement wasn’t quite right.

In the construction industry 61,000 people were laid off, manufacturing saw 46,000 job cuts, and in retail 27,000 positions went away. And that’s not even the whole story.

So where did the number 20,000 come from? It’s the difference between the number of jobs that were lost in April and those that were added. The creation of new jobs, in education, health care, and other industries, as well as government, offset the layoffs.

However, this doesn’t mean that only 20,000 people lost their jobs.

The CBS Evening News explained the number in more detail, providing appropriate context for viewers. (Nothing against Brian Williams and the terrific team at NBC Nightly News; they just missed the mark on this particular issue.)

In any event, the point is that numbers can be presented in any number of ways, and can be misleading.

Consider a report from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas that actually shows an increase in layoffs from March to April—and it’s no small uptick. Layoffs jumped 68 percent.

Fortunately or unfortunately, this finding didn’t get as much coverage as the “good news number” of 20,000. Perhaps it’s because members of the media and others want to offset the economic gloom.

As SMW has reported, there are bright spots. Several industries continue to add to staff (see “Hot Careers in a Cooling Economy”), and there are new industries that offer job opportunities (see “America Goes Green: What Does It Means to Your Career?”).

Still, if you’re among the many people who recently lost a job you know that times have been better—and you want, make that need, all the information you can get. In the coming weeks, SMW will continue to focus on providing practical career and job search advice to help you look out for the most important number of all, No. 1.

Paula Santonocito
Career Editor, SingleMindedWomen.com