Layoffs tick up in Tarrant County, but economists say job market remains strong 

dfwnewsa | February 12, 2024 | 0 | Fort Worth , Fort Worth News

Layoffs tick up in Tarrant County, but economists say job market remains strong 

More than 1,000 people came to a job fair hosted by Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County at Globe Life Field in Arlington on Nov. 9, 2023. Economists say the job market in the area is resilient despite pressure from high interest rates and inflation. (Seth Bodine | Fort Worth Report)
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Major employers in Tarrant County, including American Airlines and Lockheed Martin, have announced in the past two months layoffs that will affect hundreds of workers. Economists watching the numbers say the job market in the area is still doing well, but an increase in layoffs is one signal of slowing growth. 

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While the Fort Worth and Arlington area, along with the rest of the state, has seen consistent job growth, mass layoff notices filed to the state are increasing. 

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, known as WARN, requires businesses to provide notice of a plant closure or mass layoffs. This year, five companies have filed WARN notices of mass layoffs or plant closures in Tarrant County, affecting 988 workers. 

High-profile companies laying off employees can cause the “shark attack effect,” Julie Percival, regional economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, said. 

“These really dramatic things happen and, all of a sudden, people start paying attention to them,” Percival said. “And (say), ‘Oh, is that something to be concerned about?’”

Percival advises caution when interpreting dramatic numbers and changes. While high-profile companies might announce attention-grabbing layoff numbers, the layoffs often only affect one particular sector and don’t affect an entire area. The Dallas-Fort Worth area has been at the top of job growth across all major industries, outperforming other major cities such as New York City, San Francisco and Boston, she said. 

According to the latest data from the Texas Workforce Commission, Fort Worth and Arlington continue to add jobs. In December 2023, the area added 30,000 jobs, a 2.5% increase compared with the same time last year. The area’s unemployment rate was 3.3% in December, according to the latest data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

“At least in our region right now, the demand for workers is so incredibly high,” Percival said. “It may be that what’s happening is we could see that there are a number of layoffs in the area, but because the demand for workers in our area is so strong right now that they’re going to go straight from being out of work to being employed somewhere else.” 

Luis Torres, senior business economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said layoff levels are going back to pre-pandemic levels.“We’re slowing down, but it’s still above the historic trend,” he said.

In Tarrant County, the pre-COVID average number of WARN notices was 4,600. In 2023, WARN notices were at 3,600. Employment growth and low unemployment rates have created a strong labor market, he said. 

Mass layoffs tend to occur in industries that are vulnerable to economic conditions such as higher interest rates or in industries conducting structural change, according to a study co-authored by Torres. He points out Austin has mass layoffs above pre-COVID levels because of the city’s large technology sector, an industry that is downsizing its workforce following rapid hiring during the pandemic. 

Mass layoffs that show up in WARN notices only represent 2.2% of total layoffs in the state, Torres said. In an average year, about 155,000 workers per month are laid off in Texas. The uptick in notices is a sign that the employment growth the state has experienced is starting to slow down and return to pre-COVID levels, Torres said. 

Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at seth.bodine@fortworthreport.org or follow @sbodine120 on X, formerly known as Twitter. 

At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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