Employers across the United States and beyond have had to react quickly to the rapid onset of the coronavirus outbreak. The ongoing crisis has forced many to make tough decisions about their workforces, including whether to lay off or furlough workers during this uncertain time.
The economic downturn has made layoffs top of mind for many American workers as well. On Glassdoor, there are millions of reviews left anonymously by workers that reveal insights into workplace experiences at companies across the U.S. and the world. This Glassdoor reviews data shows workers have more frequently discussed layoffs in their company reviews since the coronavirus outbreak began escalating across the U.S. in mid-March. The percentage of company reviews that mention layoffs has risen 73 percent in the past five weeks, from approximately 3 percent to 5 percent.
We also analyzed the increase in more detail by comparing the share of reviews that mention layoffs during the four weeks before and after March 13. March 13 marks an inflection point in the timeline of the crisis and in our data.
Employees of Small-to-Medium Sized Businesses Hardest Hit
Reviews mentioning layoffs have increased most for small-to-medium sized businesses, rising over 60 percent. By contrast, reviews mentioning layoffs for businesses with over 5,000 employees increased only 13 percent. This is still a substantial increase, but much more modest than for smaller firms. Additionally, both before and after the crisis began, layoffs were much less likely to be mentioned at larger firms in general. This suggests that in both good times and bad, larger firms have more scale and financial buffer to avoid layoffs.
Layoffs Concerns across Wide Variety of Industries
- Travel & tourism (+142.5 percent) and arts, entertainment & recreation (+88.4 percent) have both experienced large increases in reviews mentioning layoffs as these industries suffer from the shutdown of non-essential businesses and the collapse of consumer demand.
- White-collar industries like business services (+83.7 percent), finance (+63.5 percent), insurance (+56.9 percent) and information technology (+47.3 percent) have also seen large increases in employees mentioning layoffs in company reviews. While service industries have been directly affected by shutdowns, the increased focus on layoffs among even white-collar employees shows these industries are not immune to the decline in demand from consumers and businesses.
- Health care (+90.6 percent) has also seen a large increase in reviews mentioning layoffs or furloughs. Despite the coronavirus response demanding additional health care workers, many health care providers are cancelling non-essential procedures and furloughing non-medical staff.
- Oil, gas, energy & utilities (+53.2 percent) has been hard hit by the combination of declining economic activity, shelter-in-place orders and global over-supply of oil, driving oil prices down below the breakeven point for many businesses.
Increase in Mentions of Layoffs Across Workers of All Tenures
Since the beginning of the crisis, while mentions of layoffs have increased for all workers, the increase has been even more pronounced for less tenured employees. In particular, the share of reviews mentioning layoffs has increased 57.5 percent for workers with between 1 and 2 years of tenure compared to a 30.5 percent increase for workers with over 10 years of tenure at a company. The exception to this trend has been the newest employees to a company, where the percentage increase in reviews mentioning layoffs is more in line with the average.
The sharp rise in layoffs is the inevitable result of the ongoing shutdown in non-essential businesses, but the overarching question looming over the labor market is whether these layoffs will be temporary or permanent. With employers rapidly shifting staffing plans as the situation evolves, the duration and permanence of these layoffs will depend largely on the country’s ability to overcome the public health crisis. We likely won’t know the full impact of the crisis on the labor market until well after it has passed but, in the interim, Glassdoor data shows that workers are mentioning more layoffs and furloughs in their workplace reviews as the coronavirus crisis escalates.
We analyze a sample of over 100,000 U.S. Glassdoor reviews from February 12 through April 9, 2020. We identified reviews that include keywords related to layoffs, including but not limited to “layoff”, “laid off”, “furlough”, “let go”, “fired”.