Plant Closings, Mass Layoffs, and Worker Dislocations: Data Issues

Plant Closings, Mass Layoffs, and Worker Dislocations:
Data Issues
For at least 15 years Members of Congress have continued to ask: How many
U.S. manufacturing plants have closed? For at least 15 years they have continued to
ask: How many U.S. manufacturing plants have relocated abroad, and where have
they gone? For at least 15 years the answer has been: For the most part, those
questions can't be answered, based on Government data.
Over the years, Congress has undertaken two legislative efforts to learn the
answers to these questions. First, it mandated collection and publication of plant
closing data under the Job Training Partnership Act of 1982. Six years later, it
mandated notification of State dislocated worker units created under the 1982 Act,
when a major plant closing (or other layoff event) was scheduled to occur. This
second mandate was part of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act
(WARN) of 1988. Because these two laws are thus linked together, the potential
exists for data collected under the WARN Act to be fed into or coordinated with the
data system established under the Job Training Partnership Act, to avoid duplication
or to act as a check for consistency.
During the continuing congressional debates on the North American Free Trade
Agreement, plant closing questions have arisen again, but in a more specific form:
How many plants are moving to Mexico? What industries and what States are the
plants from? How many U.S. workers are losing their jobs as a result?
In an attempt to obtain answers to these questions, the Senate Governmental
Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management asked
the Secretaries of Labor and Commerce to report on all data systems that provide
information on plant closings, plant relocations, layoffs, worker dislocations, and
export-related job creations.
Based upon a CRS analysis of the agencies' responses, which include data
sources beyond the two mentioned above, it appears that still, after two legislative
attempts to mandate collection of these data, the Government publishes no counts of
U.S. plant closings, and almost no information on plant relocations. Options for
strengthening the data systems include addressing three main weaknesses:
inadequate data program design, a plant closing definition that misses its mark, and
publication of partial instead of complete survey results.
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Why Data Are Needed..............................................1
Congressional Efforts to Establish a Data Base...........................2
Congressional Survey..............................................2
Responses by the Departmentsof Labor and Commerce....................3
Data Sources.....................................................4
Mass Layoff and Plant Closing Survey.............................4
Plant Closings............................................4
Plant Relocations..........................................5
Downsizing ..............................................6
Layoffs ..................................................6
Jobs Lost from Import Penetration.............................6
Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN)..........7
Displaced Worker Survey.......................................7
Plant Closing Data.........................................8
Displaced Workers.........................................8
Trade Adjustment Assistance Program.............................8
Export-related Jobs............................................9
Options for Making the Data More Useful to Policymakers................10
MLS Data System............................................10
WARN Data System:..........................................10
Displaced Worker Survey:......................................10
Conclusions .....................................................11
List of Tables
TABLE 1. Overview of DOL and DOC Sources for Data on
Plant Closings, Mass Layoffs, and Worker Dislocations................9
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Plant Closings, Mass Layoffs, and Worker
Dislocations: Data Issues
In the past two decades, the nature of U.S. industry has changed. Pressured by
domestic and international competition, businesses have exhibited a new kind of
dynamism and mobility. Aiming to improve competitiveness, businesses automate.
They tighten up, downsize, or decentralize operations. They open, close, expand,
consolidate, or relocate plants.
An important side effect from all this activity is a trail of American workers
dislocated from their jobs by changing production processes and shifting production
locations. Yet, comprehensive data are not available to show overall and by industry,
how many plants close permanently in the United States each year; how many plants
relocate to another State, another country, or another region (i.e., to Asia/Pacific or
to Mexico); how many plants automate or downsize production processes; and how
many workers lose their jobs as a result of each of these changes.
Why Data Are Needed
Congressional policy decisions, especially those that may impact U.S. jobs,
could benefit from data tracking this dynamic industrial movement. Such data would
help policymakers focus on trends that might be exacerbated, assisted, or targeted by
specific trade, training, job creation, or education policy decisions. The
consequences from lack of data are that certain policy decisions are made, to a great
extent, "in the dark."
The implications of this lack of data are evident in the debate on the North
American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). According to recent surveys of the
Departments of Labor and Commerce, no comprehensive Federal data are regularly
published on how many plants have relocated to Mexico, where the plants have
relocated from, what industries they are in, and how many U.S. jobs have been lost
as a result. Nor are there data on how many U.S. jobs have been crowded out by
Mexican imports. What little data that do exist are often sketchy, and not available
in press releases or other printed publications.
No complete Government data base tracks business decisions pre-NAFTA.
Therefore, data on business relocations to Mexico as a result of Mexico's
maquiladora program have been hard to come by. Without full data on current
relocation trends, it becomes even more difficult to estimate with any reliability the
potential for additional plants moving to Mexico (and the consequences of such
dislocation) after the added incentive of NAFTA.
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Congressional Efforts to Establish a Data Base
Since the 1970s, various Members of Congress have expressed urgency in
obtaining information about mass layoffs, plant closings and plant relocations to
areas either within or outside the United States, and the resulting loss of jobs. The
objective in obtaining this information is to learn more about the perceived erosion
of the U.S. manufacturing sector and the alleged export of U.S. jobs.
To this end, Congress mandated the establishment of two systems in the
Department of Labor (DOL). One system was a labor market information program
for collecting and publishing each year, data on permanent layoffs and plant closings.
This system was mandated by the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) of 1982 (P.L.
97-300). The Mass Layoff and Plant Closing Survey (MLS) was undertaken by the
Department of Labor in response to this mandate. The other system stemmed from
congressional passage of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act
(WARN) in 1988. In this law, Congress required that employers notify three bodies
— workers, State dislocated worker units created under JTPA, and local governments
— of impending major mass layoffs, plant closings, or plant relocations.
Yet, the statistical systems produced by the DOL in response to the
congressional mandate to track plant closing, plant relocation, and worker
displacement, appear to miss the mark to varying degrees in meeting these objectives.
The incompleteness of the resulting data stems from three main causes: program
design that is inadequate to meet congressional objectives, a definition of plant
closing that does not coincide with the generally accepted definition, and publication
of partial instead of complete data survey results.
In order to document and examine the issue of data adequacies and
inadequacies, this report aims: first, to identify the extent to which certain statistical
programs of the DOL and the Department of Commerce (DOC) meet or fall short of
providing needed information on mass layoffs, plant closings, worker dislocations
and the counterbalancing effects of export-related job creation; and second, to offer
options for changes to improve the usefulness to Congress of the data being
Congressional Survey
In December of 1992, letters were sent out by the Subcommittee on Oversight
of Government Management of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs to
the Secretaries of Labor and Commerce. The purpose of these letters was to obtain
documentation on the availability of data tracking plant closings, mass layoffs,
worker dislocations, and counterbalancing export-related job creation. The
motivation behind the request, as stated in the respective letters, was to obtain data
for the NAFTA debate.
Each agency was asked to identify data sources that are "readily available and
in an organized form" tracking the data requested. Each agency was further asked
to indicate whether the data were available over each of the last 10 years, by number
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of workers, by industry and occupation, by geographic area, and by reasons for
various closing and layoff events. Agencies were asked for information on the
availability of data for eight specific layoff events or subject areas. The first four
focus on establishment events and workers affected. The remaining four focus more
exclusively on workers or jobs affected. The eight layoff events are:

1.Plant closures in the United States;

2.Plant relocations to foreign countries;1

3.Plant downsizings;


5.Dislocated or displaced (the words are interchangeable here) workers;

6.Dislocated or displaced workers receiving Trade Adjustment Assistance
7.Jobs lost in the United States from import penetration; and

8.Export-related jobs created.

In addition, the DOL was specifically asked about the Mass Layoff and Plant Closing
Survey and the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) data
program. Finally, DOL was also asked to identify steps it could take to collect and
make the requested information which is currently unpublished, available to the
public in the future, together with the costs and benefits of taking such steps.
Responses by the Departments
of Labor and Commerce
Both agencies responded to the congressional request in the first half of January
1993, with memos and data sources. The DOC's role, concerned mainly with
commerce, is really secondary to the DOL's role, concerned mainly with labor in
providing plant closing, plant relocation, and mass layoff data.
In particular, the DOL, submitted data on some of the layoff events. For those
layoff events for which it did not publish the requested data, it failed to report
whether some of the data might be available unpublished in its data bases. Nor did
the DOL response identify steps that the agency could take to collect and make such
data available to the public in the future.
Table 1 on page 11, prepared by CRS, summarizes the extent to which the
sources offered by DOL and DOC provide data requested by the committee. The
analysis which follows discusses in greater detail the ability and inability of the data
sources to provide answers to the questions asked. A succeeding section reviews
some options for making the surveys more useful in providing policymakers with
answers to the questions here enumerated.
1 Information on plant relocations to other parts of the United States is also an important
aspect of the plant relocation phenomenon, but was not specifically requested in the letters.
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Data Sources
The DOL response was somewhat limited in providing comprehensive
responses to the subcommittee, both in terms of providing complete reports and in
terms of providing detailed information on material in the data bases that is not
reflected in published documents. Because of this, the analysis below draws on some
additional information from CRS files and previous CRS research on the data bases.
Additional information to answer the subcommittee's questions may exist in the data
bases, beyond that reported here.
Mass Layoff and Plant Closing Survey
As mentioned, the Mass Layoff and Plant Closing Survey (MLS) is the
Department of Labor's response to the congressional mandate in section 462 of the
Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) that the Secretary of Labor "shall develop and
maintain statistical data relating to permanent lay-offs and plant closings."
Specifically required by JTPA was that the Secretary publish an annual report
including: 1) the number of permanent plant closings; 2) the number of workers
displaced; 3) the location of the affected facilities; and 4) the types of industries
The MLS program obtains reports on layoffs involving at least 50 workers and
lasting more than 30 days. Information on mass layoffs is gathered from each State's
unemployment insurance data base. The State agencies then contact these
establishments by telephone for additional information.2
At present the MLS survey has been suspended. Collection of the data for the
program by States ended in November of 1992.3
What follows is a discussion of the adequacy of the MLS to meet the data needs
of policymakers as iterated above.
Plant Closings. Despite the specificity of the JTPA requirement, that the
Secretary of Labor publish an annual report including the number of permanent plant
closings, the MLS falls short of the mandate in two ways.
2 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Mass Layoffs in 1990. February

1992. p. 1.

3 For the FY 1992, no line item funding the program was included in the President's budget.
Appropriations committees subsequently instructed the DOL to fund the program from
money appropriated under the Job Training Partnership Act, and amended JTPA to reserve
$6 million for the MLS program, from the amounts appropriated under Title IV of the JTPA.
The Secretary of Labor agreed to fund the program in FY 1992, as directed. She
subsequently notified Congress that she did not intend to be bound by report language for
FY 1993 if she were directed to use JTPA national account money for the MLS again
(which she was). What will happen to the MLS under the new Administration is unclear.
(Information for this paragraph was taken from letters exchanged between the Secretary of
Labor and chairmen of several committees, and from discussions with the DOL office
producing the MLS survey.)
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First, it fails to count and tabulate many of what are generally considered to be
plant closings, even though they may involve 50 or more workers. This is because
DOL defines permanent plant closings to include only those closings which represent
the final termination of the entire physical plant. According to the DOL letter
submitted to the committee, "if parts of the establishment — a branch or department
— were closing, the establishment was considered to be staying open." Thus, the
way DOL counts plant closings, if a General Motors (GM) assembly plant closes in
Ypsilanti, Michigan, this would not be counted as a plant closing if an accounting or
other office physically associated with the plant remains open. Thus, the DOL
counting of plant closings may significantly underreport the actual number of plant
closings occurring in the United States.
Second, the MLS fails to report on, or even to mention plant closings in any of
its published tables, even though tabulation of plant closings was the stated
requirement in the congressional mandate included in the JTPA. Only one sentence
in the lengthy annual reports (generally over 100 pages each) even addresses the issue
of plant closings. In the report issued in 1992, for example, that sentence reads (p.

2): "Closure of the establishments results in about 14 percent of the layoff events."

In 1988 the term "plant closing" was dropped from the title of the MLS document,
and the initial title, Report on Mass Layoffs and Plant Closings, was simplified and
shortened to Mass Layoffs.
Plant Relocations. Even though the MLS reports contain no data on plant
closings except for the one summary sentence discussed above, they do include line
item counts for relocation events -- both domestic and overseas, and total number of
workers affected for the country as a whole, as well as by State. The MLS does not
include any indication of industries represented by the plant relocations, geographic
areas from which the relocations are sourced, or to which the relocations are targeted.
The DOL letter responding to the subcommittee inquiry notes that in 1991
information was obtained from employers specifying the country to which the
establishment was relocating, when out-of-country moves were reported. DOL also
included two supplemental unpublished sheets which reported a number of
relocations to Mexico for 1991 and the first half of 1992, and the number of workers4
affected. The sheets did not identify industries represented in the relocation to
Mexico, although they reported on overseas relocation for two industries without5
regard to target country.
The DOL did not give any indication of industry or geographic identity for any
relocations within the United States. It is possible that such data does not exist in the
data base. However, it would be useful to track relocation within the United States.
4 Six relocations were reported for 1991, dislocating 810 workers, and 5 for the first half
of 1992, dislocating 1,270 workers.
5 These industries are: rubber/plastics, with 3 layoff events for 1991, dislocating 443
workers; and electrical and electronic equipment, with 4 layoff events in 1991, dislocating

603 workers.

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Downsizing. The DOL letter responding to the subcommittee inquiry
indicates that data on actual downsizing of corporations are not available. However,
DOL may have in its data base, such data by companies, since it includes a line item
(tallying events and workers) on one aspect of initial downsizing -- automation.
DOL's letter notes that the agency "cannot provide information on specific companies
that have relocated or downsized their workforces" because data are collected under
a pledge of confidentiality to respondents. However, perhaps data in the database at
the company level could be aggregated to the industry level to protect the privacy of
individual companies.
Layoffs. While the MLS report provides only sketchy results for plant
closings, it provides detailed aggregate information on the number of layoff events
and the number of workers affected: The survey provides layoff data by industry (but
not by occupation) by State, and by reasons for the event.
There are two weaknesses in the reported data on layoff events. First, the data
do not provide geographic or industry detail on the reason for the separation or
layoff. Temporary layoff events could be grouped together and data could be
published by industry and by region. Such data may be available in the data base,
although the DOL letter responding to the committee inquiry gave no indication on
this one way or the other.
Second, MLS data from early years are not comparable with MLS data from
more recent years because between 1986 and 1992, the survey coverage expanded
from its original 26 States to 46 States plus the District of Columbia. California is
a major State not included.
Jobs Lost from Import Penetration. The Trade Adjustment Assistance
(TAA) data (discussed below) reflect the number of workers for whom imports
"contributed importantly" to their job loss. Data on the number of workers for whom
imports contributed somewhat to their unemployment is harder to find.
The DOL letter responding to the subcommittee inquiry reports that both
conceptually and empirically the measurement of job loss due to import demand is
difficult, and that at present no official data series fully identifies the extent of such
activity. The MLS survey does, however, contain a line item called "import
competition" (noting the number of layoff events and related worker separations).
This number purports to reflect jobs lost from import penetration. What is notable
about these figures is that they show fewer workers dislocated from import6
penetration than do TAA data.
The reason for this discrepancy is unclear. One possibility is the fact that the
MLS data only included 26 States in 1987, and a larger but still incomplete list of 45
States in 1990. Another possibility is that the MLS survey counts jobs lost to import
penetration only when this is the single most important reason for dislocation,
6 For 1987, the MLS survey reports 16 percent as many workers dislocated from import
competition as the TAA figures show; for 1990, the MLS survey reports 48 percent as many
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whereas the TAA data could reflect import competition as one of several important
reasons for dislocation.
Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN)
The WARN Act of 1988 (P.L. 100-379) requires that all businesses with 100 or
more workers give 60 days advance notice to workers, local governments, and State
dislocated worker units before closing a plant or laying off a substantial number of
workers (according to a formula in the law). Data on notifications under the WARN
system are collected by each State, and summary data are forwarded to the DOL.
The summary data provided to the committee by DOL include only total
numbers of WARN notices for the United States. The weakness of the WARN data
transmitted by DOL is that they are not separated out from other JTPA data. There
are no data reported for the number of workers affected by WARN notices, for type
of layoff event (permanent or temporary), or for industries or geographic areas
affected. Yet, according to DOL, a covered employer contemplating a qualifying
plant closing or layoff event must report a minimum of information to the State
dislocated worker unit including the name and address of the employment site, the
name and telephone number of a company official, and the number of workers
affected. The employer must keep additional detailed information, including the
nature of the layoff event (temporary, permanent, and if permanent, whether it is a
plant closing, etc.) readily available.
The WARN system is certainly a potential source of data on closings, layoffs,
and relocations among plants with 100 or more workers (thus potentially capturing
data on layoff, closing, and relocation activities of multinational corporations).7 If
the WARN data reporting system were structured to capitalize on this potential, it
could be used either as a double check on the data received under the MLS system
or as a funnel to feed data into the MLS system.
Displaced Worker Survey
The displaced worker survey, is conducted every other year as a survey of
households (as opposed to establishments.) It is a joint product of the DOC and the
DOL. The DOC, as part of its Current Population Survey, inquires door-to-door
whether any member of the household was displaced from his or her job at any time
during the past 5 years because of a plant closure or relocation, abolition of shift, or
slack work. If the answer is "yes," a series of questions then are asked. The DOC
submits the results of the survey to the DOL, which tabulates and publishes them in
the report Displaced Workers.
A survey such as the displaced worker survey, is not as precise a sampling tool
as an actual count of workers and events, as reflected in the MLS and the WARN
data systems. Errors in surveys can result from self-reporting as well as from
7 Businesses of 100 or more workers constitute about 2 percent of all businesses in the
United States, but employ about 45 percent of all private workers, according to the U.S.
Department of Commerce publication County Business Patterns, 1989.
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nonsampling — i.e., failure to represent all units within the sample. They can also
result from sampling variability — that is, variations that occur by chance because
a sample rather than an entire population is surveyed.
Plant Closing Data. The displaced worker survey is notable in that it is the
only Government survey to report, by industry, the number of workers who report
themselves to be specifically dislocated by plant closings or plant relocations.
The main weaknesses of the survey are three: First, it reports on the number of
workers displaced from plant closure, not on the number of establishments or plants
closing. This is only a weakness of the survey from the standpoint of the
policymaker wanting a count of plant closings in the United States. By its nature as
a household survey, the displaced worker survey was never intended to tally
Second, each every-other-year survey represents a long-range snapshot in time,
collecting aggregate sampling data on all dislocations that have occurred within the
previous five years. Thus, the survey produces no data on year-by-year dislocations.
Third, in its Displaced Workers report, the DOL publishes detailed data only on
workers employed three or more years with the employer. Thus, published results
of this survey ignore more than half the displaced worker population covered by the8
survey. Although DOL did not mention this in any of the materials it submitted to
the committee, it does have data for all dislocated workers regardless of tenure, in its
data base, and does make this data available to requesters who know to ask for it.
Displaced Workers. The Displaced Workers report includes in tables,
considerable detail about displaced workers: their numbers, the industries and
occupations from which they were dislocated, their geographic distribution, and even
the reasons for dislocation.
The weakness of the report in giving a picture of displaced workers echoes the
weaknesses of the report in measuring plant closings, iterated in reasons two and
three immediately above: it does not afford year-by-year counts of displaced
workers. In addition, it only describes less than half the total universe of displaced
workers covered in the survey.
Trade Adjustment Assistance Program
Trade Adjustment Assistance program data (submitted by DOL for the years

1975-1990) reflect dislocated workers receiving trade adjustment assistance benefits.

These are workers for whom a determination was made, as required by the Trade Act
of 1974 (P.L. 93-618) that imports "contributed importantly" to their dislocation.
According to the DOL letter responding to the committee inquiry, data are also
8 This figure was derived from comparing the number of displaced workers with three years
tenure with the number of displaced workers regardless of tenure. This latter figure is
included in unpublished data.
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available by State and by Standard Industrial Classification code (i.e., by industry).
This data source is reasonably complete as it stands.9
Export-related Jobs
Several publications were submitted by DOC and DOL in response to a request
for information on export-related jobs. The publication Trade and Employment is the
product of a joint effort by the DOC and the DOL. This publication is of limited
value for measuring export-related jobs because it measures not jobs created by
exports, but rather total jobs in industries that had at least 20 percent of their 1987
employment levels tied to direct or indirect manufactured exports.10 As the DOL
letter points out, the change in employment data primarily reflect "domestic
consumption trends," rather than export-related jobs.
The DOC publication U.S. Jobs Supported by Merchandise Exports does
measure export-related jobs. The data results come from a University of Maryland
input-output model, based in part on the DOC Bureau of Economic Analysis's input-
output tables. The report includes for the years 1983-1990, estimates on both direct
and indirect employment requirements for shipments of merchandise exports from
all sectors of the economy (agriculture, other goods-producing, and service-producing
sectors). A companion publication, U.S. Jobs Supported by Merchandise Exports to
Mexico, provides detailed information on jobs, by industry, supported by exports to
Mexico. Neither publication includes data on jobs supported by exports by State.
9 CRS is aware that in addition to information submitted to the subcommittee by DOL,
current data are published monthly by DOL Employment and Training Administration,
Office of Trade Adjustment. In addition, the Federal Register publishes the name and
location of each plant for which trade adjustment assistance is approved.
10 Indirect exports refer to manufactured input upstream to produce the intermediate inputs
and capital goods, and downstream to complete the final products ready for export.
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TABLE 1. Overview of DOL and DOC Sources for Data on
Plant Closings, Mass Layoffs, and Worker Dislocations
Does the source provide data for the “category” listed at
lef t ?
Do es By
so urce reaso ns
Data sourceprovidefor
offered bydataByclosure,
Departments ofnamedByindustryreloca-
Labor (DOL) orGeneralinnumber(IND)/occ-By geo-tion,
Commerceevaluation andcategoryofupationgraphiclayoff,
Category(DOC)commentsat left?workers?(OCC)?area?etc.?
PlantMass LayoffEssentially, thisNoNoIND: NoNoNo
closures inStatistics Programsource does notOCC: No
U.S./Mass Layoffscontain data on
and Plantplant closings.
Closings (MLS-
This source doesNoNoOCC: NoNoNo
Workernot separate out
Adjustment andplant closures from
Retrainingall layoff events.
No tificatio n
(WARN) data
system (DOL)
This source reportsNoReportsIND: NoNoNo
Displaced Workeron proportions ofnumber offor plant
Survey/ Displacedtenured workersworkers,closures,
Workersdislocated by plantbut notyes for
(DOC/DOL)closures, but notplantworkers
on the number ofclosingsdislocated
plant closuresbyby plant
themselves.number ofclosures
wo r k e r s
Plant MLS (DOL)This sourceYes, forYesIND:No forNo
relocationsincludes domesticthe yearsSome, forreloca-
and overseas plant1986-92overseastion
relocations forrelocationssource;
1986-1992; somein 1991-92some
data are reportedfor
by industry andOCC: Noreloca-
relocation targettion
for 1991-92 onlytarget,
fo r
92 only
DownsizingMLS (DOL)Some line itemsNoYesIND: NoNoNo
could reflectOCC: No
d o wnsizing
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Does the source provide data for the “category” listed at
lef t ?
Do es By
so urce reaso ns
Data sourceprovidefor
offered bydataByclosure,
Departments ofnamedByindustryreloca-
Labor (DOL) orGeneralinnumber(IND)/occ-By geo-tion,
Commerceevaluation andcategoryofupationgraphiclayoff,
Category(DOC)commentsat left?workers?(OCC)?area?etc.?
All layoffs inMLS (DOL)Layoff data coverNo, onlyYesIND: YesYesYes, but
U.S.26 States in 1986;for 7OCC: Nonot by
46 States in 1992yearsreason by
ind ustr y
DisplacedDisplacedThese data provideYesYesIND: YesYesYes
workersWorkersthe best picture ofOCC: Yes
(DOC/DOL)worker dislocation.
However, data
published count
only workers with
3 or more years
tenure with
DisplacedTrade AdjustmentDetailed dataYesYesIND: YesYesYes –
workersAssistanceexists on TAAOCC: NoImports
receivingprogram (DOL)beneficiaries,contri-
TAAbeginning in 1975buted
Jobs lost inMLSNot as inclusive asNoSome:IND: NoNoNo
U.S. fromTAA dataline item:OCC: No
impo rtimport
penet r a t io n comp eti-
tio n
Export-Trade andSource does notNoNoIND: NoNoNot appli-
related jobsEmploymenttrack export-OCC: Nocable
created(DOL)related jobs
U.S. JobsProvides specificYes for 7YesIND: YesYes onNot appli-
Supported bydata on export-yearsOCC: Noforeigncable
Merchandiserelated jobs from amarkets
Exports and U.S.Univ. of Marylandexpor-
Jobs Supportedinput/output modelted to;
by Merchandisefor 1983-1990No on
Exports tojobs
Mexico (DOC)created,
by State
Table prepared by CRS.
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Options for Making the Data More Useful to
In light of the weaknesses identified for the three data sources addressed above
— the MLS survey, the WARN program, and the displaced worker survey — some
options for strengthening these programs are included here. The DOC data sources
are fairly complete (although data on export-related job creation by industry within
each State would be useful). Options for strengthening the MLS, WARN, and
displaced worker data systems under DOL could include:
MLS Data System

1. The suspended MLS data program could be reinstated.

2. The MLS could redefine "plant closing" to include all permanent closings
of branches or major departments as well as physical plants of an establishment.

3. The MLS could then collect and report data on plant closings.

4. The MLS could provide counts of workers, by industry and by geographic
location, for separate permanent events including plant closings, plant relocations and
other permanent layoffs (automation, downsizing, etc.)
WARN Data System:
1. A legislative requirement or DOL regulation could mandate restructuring the
compilation of data by State dislocated worker units, from data reported by
employers. Thus, data could be collected and reported on permanent plant closings,
relocations, and other permanent layoff events, including the geographic area, the
industry, and the number of workers associated with each event.
2. Data from the WARN system possibly could be fed into and coordinated
with the more comprehensive MLS system. This coordination could result in a single
system for producing data on plant closings, relocations, and permanent layoff
events, avoiding duplication of effort and expense.
Displaced Worker Survey:

1. The DOL could pull from its data system and publish data on all workers —

not just data on workers with three or more years tenure with an employer.
Currently, such data are available only to those who know to ask for it. Because
these data are already in the data base, publication of more complete data could be
done with minimum expense.
2. The DOL could publish data on the number of workers displaced by State or
geographic region for categories of layoff events including permanent plant closures,
plant relocations, and automation/downsizing.
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The options mentioned for possible changes in the MLS, WARN, and displaced
worker reporting systems could help provide policymakers with much needed data
tracking U.S. plant closings, plant relocations, and worker dislocations. The results
could enable these three systems to provide data both by industry and by geographic
area, for the major types of permanent layoff events.
The question arises about duplication in data production, if all three systems are
producing data to their potential. The basic potential for duplication lies with the
WARN and the MLS system, which are both surveys of establishments. The
displaced worker survey polls only households, and thus affords no count of
The displaced worker survey is a potentially important check on the other two
systems in its counting of workers displaced from such events as plant closings and
plant relocations -- events which employers may be reluctant to divulge. However,
for the displaced worker survey to be truly useful for policy-making purposes, data
on all displaced workers (not just the long-tenured ones, as is currently the case) need
to be reported. Since these data on the entire universe of displaced workers are
already tabulated in the system, the cost of reporting it should be fairly minimal.
While the WARN data production system could potentially be duplicative of the
MLS system, the reverse is not the case, because the WARN system is potentially
less inclusive (once the MLS system includes all States.) The WARN system only
reports closing and layoff events in cases involving businesses of 100 or more
workers. Ideally, what could evolve with the WARN and MLS systems is data
coordination between the two systems. Efficiency in structuring a single data system
from these two might well save the U.S. Government money in the longer term.
At present neither the MLS nor the WARN establishment data collection
systems provides needed comprehensive data on plant closings. Both data collection
systems miss the mark and the MLS system also misses its legislative mandate to
provide: data on plant closings, plant relocations and other permanent layoff events,
tabulated by industry and by geographic location. If these data were available,
policymakers could use the resulting report on trends in industrial restructuring to
help them make informed policy decisions. Especially important are decisions
affecting U.S. workers and U.S. jobs, such as those surrounding the debate on
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