The 13 Hugest Layoffs in American History

Written By Staff

These days, many Americans are suffering at the hands of layoffs, but mass job cuts are hardly a new thing. Often a result of new efficiency or simply running low on cash, thousands of employees can be cut at a time. Here we'll take a look at 13 massive layoffs in American history.

  1. Intel: In 2006, Intel announced a major restructuring that included the layoff of 9,500 employees, and an additional 1,000 managerial jobs. Then in 2009, Intel closed chip plants, resulting in up to 6,000 layoffs.

  2. Microsoft: In its then-34th year of business without mass layoffs, Microsoft cut an initial 5,000 jobs, and even more by the end of 2009. The layoffs came in response to a major loss in profits and a need to reduce operating expenses and capital expenditures.

  3. Airlines: As a group, US airlines stopped flying more than 350 planes and laid off over 4,000 employees in just 2009. These measures were made to respond to record-high fuel prices. Continental Airlines alone laid off 3,000 workers at one point.

  4. Citigroup: In 2008, Citigroup laid off 52,000 employees, making up for massive write-downs. The number of jobs cut by Citi is about the same as the total amount of cuts in the entire US financial services industry in 2006. As New York City's second largest private employer, Citi's layoffs had a major impact on the city, as well as Citi stock.

  5. Merck: Merck announced a layoff of 15,000 R&D and manufacturing workers in July 2010. Critics point out that the layoffs illustrate a cruel trend of producing fewer new drugs, despite growing R&D budgets.

  6. Dow Chemical: Dow Chemical made drastic changes, cutting 5,000 jobs, as well as eliminating 6,000 contractor positions and temporarily suspending operations at 180 plants. 20 plants worldwide were closed, and the company sold off segments of its business.

  7. US Postal Service: The public workforce is not immune to layoffs, as evidenced by the USPS cut of 7,500 administrative positions. This cut impacted 2,000 postmasters, which will likely mean closing the post offices they operate.

  8. HP: After an acquisition of Electronic Data Systems Corp, HP cut 7.5% of its workforces fo realize savings. That amounted to a cut of 24,600 jobs over three years. Additionally, HP announced plans to spend $1 billion and cut 9,000 jobs over three years to move to fully automated commercial data centers, with job cuts stemming from automation and productivity gains.

  9. Borders: The popular bookstore Borders announced plans to close 200 of 488 superstores as part of a bankruptcy protection filing. These closings resulting in the laying off of 6,000 employees out of 19,500.

  10. IBM: IBM made drastic new cuts in 1993, letting go of 35,000 jobs as part of an $8.9 billion program to cut costs. The company also let go of some factories and equipment, shuttering plants. The measure was applauded by investors, and was praised for being a clean, drastic cut, rather than dragging out painful layoffs over several years. Employees were given incentives to leave, and there was also an early retirement program to encourage a positive outcome for both employees and the company.

  11. NASA: With a new proposed budget for NASA comes the cancellation of new rockets and spacecraft, and the upcoming retirement of the shuttle program. These changes created a round of layoffs at NASA. This layoff includes 9,000 direct NASA jobs and 14,000 indirect jobs such as those at hotels and restaurants in the area.

  12. Automakers: After burning through billions in cash, automakers had to lay off workers and slow down production at plants in response to the global capital crisis. GM cut 3,600 workers and Ford cut nearly 2,300 North American salaried jobs.

  13. Pfizer: Pfizer announced a layoff of 19,500 employees as a part of a buyout with Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. But they didn't stop there. As a part of continued cost-reduction initiatives, Pfizer created a cushion to lay off up to 13,200 additional employees.