When workers get laid off, they often don’t know how they’ll pay the next month’s rent or whether they’ll find another job that pays as well. About 21.5 million Americans were laid off or discharged from their jobs in 2019, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and for many, the experience caused considerable stress and anxiety.
Layoffs aren’t evenly distributed across the country, however. They are more frequent in states where businesses are struggling and being forced to shrink or close.
To measure where layoffs are concentrated, we tallied up the number of workers affected by mass layoffs in each state, based on data found in Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) notices.* We then divided the number of layoffs by the average nonfarm employment level in each state to calculate layoffs as a rate per 10,000 nonfarm payroll employees.
The 3 States with the Highest Layoff Rates
1. West Virginia (48 layoffs for every 10,000 employees)
The layoff capital of the country in 2019 was West Virginia, where the coal industry experienced a difficult year. Coal prices fell as global economic growth slowed and natural gas became cheaper. The result was that numerous coal companies cut production and jobs.
2. California (45)
California is losing businesses and residents, due to its high living costs and business costs. The state saw large numbers of companies close across a range of industries, including manufacturers, restaurants, and retailers. California’s base sales tax rate of 7.25% is higher than that of any other state, and its top marginal income tax rate of 12.3% is the highest in the country. California’s gas tax is 47.3 cents per gallon, which is far higher than the federal tax of 18.4 cents per gallon. California also has one of the least affordable housing markets.
3. New York (38)
New York’s business climate and housing market are similar to those in California, and it has severe infrastructure deficiencies—paired with worse weather.
*The WARN Act requires most employers with 100 or more employees to provide public 60 calendar-day advance notification of plant closures and mass layoffs.