Mass layoffs in Wisconsin down 26 percent in 2016

Total still above average

The number of workers affected by mass layoffs in Wisconsin dropped by almost 26.5 percent in 2016, but the total remained above the average of the last six years, according to data from the Department of Workforce Development.

The department reported 7,083 workers were affected by mass layoffs or closures requiring the filing of a notice with the state, down from the 9,630 affected in 2015.

Not all layoffs require a notice to be filed with the state. Companies with 50 or more employees are required to provide notice if they are closing a facility with 25 or more employees or are making reductions that cover at least 25 percent of the workforce or at least 500 employees.

Overall, the state added 20,700 jobs during the first 11 months of the year, according to the most recent jobs data. The state unemployment rate is also down from 4.6 percent to 4.1 percent during that period.

The gains largely came from service providing firms as the manufacturing sector was up just 200 positions to 470,900.

The 2015 layoff numbers were boosted by two particularly large notices including 1,200 at Assurant Health and 839 from Wells Fargo.

One of the largest notices filed in 2016 was for 1,062 workers with the Milwaukee Center for Independence, although many of those were expected to be immediately employed at other nursing agencies.

Other layoffs announced in 2016 included:

  • Husco International ending off-highway production at its Waukesha facility, eliminating up to 100 positions as it moved work to Whitewater and Maquoketa, Iowa. The company eventually repaid tax credits to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. as a result of the decision.
  • Terex Corp. announcing the closure of its Pewaukee plant, with plans to lay off 92 employees in early 2017 as production consolidates to facilities in South Dakota.
  • Glendale-based Gossen Corp. eliminating 92 positions as it went out of business. Those employees were expected to be rehired as New Jersey-based Inteplast Group bought the company’s assets. 
  • JPMorgan Chase & Co. laid off 135 employees who provided mortgage banking customer assistance. The company attributed the move to an improved economy resulting in fewer mortgage defaults.

There were also good and bad updates to layoffs initially announced in 2015.

On the positive side, some employees from Erik Buell Racing were able to return to work as the company restarted production as EBR Motorcycles. The company filed for receivership in April 2015, shutting down operations and putting 126 people out of work. Production restarted in March, although with a smaller staff.

On the negative side, Joy Global made permanent a decision to end its heavy fabrication and welding departments in Milwaukee. About 130 employees were initially laid off in 2015 as a part of the move, which was the result of declining demand in the mining industry.

The latest business outlook survey from Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce suggests layoffs should again be down in 2017.

Fifty-eight percent of the 270 business leaders surveyed said they plan to add staff in the first six months of the year, compared to 42 percent when the survey was done six months ago. The respondents also listed labor availability as the top public policy concern.

The business leaders also had an improved outlook on the state’s economy with 65 percent predicting moderate growth in the first half of the year, up from 49 percent when the question was asked about the second half of 2016 in the summer.

The summer survey found 49 percent expecting the economy to be flat in the second half of 2016, while the latest survey found 29 percent expecting a flat first half of 2017.

Read more economic data reports on the BizTracker page.

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Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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