Thanks to Don Sears excellent “Careers blog” at eWeek, I learned about the TechCrunch Layoff Tracker earlier this week. Here, I’d like to explain and describe it, then depict its reporting, and talk about how its numbers compare to those from other sources (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Manpower, Inc., and various other employment reporting resources). Finally, I’ll explain how you can help to make this tool better and more accurate, by reporting things you may know that it doesn’t yet reflect.
Basically, the TechCrunch Layoff Tracker is a database that places all company announcements and other verifiable information about high-tech layoffs on a timeline. It starts as of August 27, 2008, and goes right up to the present. Here’s a quick look at its layoff graph, which clearly depicts a spike in layoff in Q1’09 as compared to Q4’08:
What this graph represents is a visual summary of the layoff data also available on this Web page. As you scroll down, you’ll see a table that lists all layoffs by company, date, locations, number of laid-off employees, percentage of total workforce, with a link to the source for this information. As I write this blog, there are 455 entries in this table, a smattering of which looks like this:
This is a great resource and a very interesting source of information, but it is vital to understand that it differs from normal employment reporting in one important way. Scroll down to the Microsoft entry for January 22, 2009, and I’ll explain what I mean. Note that this item indicates a layoff of 5,000 people. And indeed, that reflects Microsoft’s stated intentions for 2009 where layoffs are concerned. But on 1/22/2009, Microsoft actually laid off only 1,400 people, while announcing their plans to lay off an additional 3,600 over the course of 2009. Other employment reports (like the sources mentioned earlier in this blog) usually get their numbers from state and federal employment tracking agencies, or by using numbers for layoffs undertaken during a specific time period, or on a certain date.
I’m not trying to suggest that the TechCrunch Layoff Tracker is inaccurate or invalid; I’m only pointing out the limits to its reporting and the way it positions numbers in time. It’s a very useful tool, and a great source of information.
All this said, what can you to do help this tool be more accurate? If you scroll to the bottom of the page, you’ll find a comment form where you can provide information about layoffs that their list may currently omit (perhaps yours or that from somebody else you know who works in high tech). You must, however, include a link to some published source for this information, even if it’s only a company press release that mentions the layoff, the date, and the number of employees affected. Do your part! Help make this tool even better…post your information right away!