2020 U.S. Media Sector Layoffs on Track to Reach Record High

2020 U.S. Media Sector Layoffs on
Yinchen Niu/VIP

Thanksgiving is a time for looking back on the year and appreciating life’s blessingsBut that will be a challenging sentiment in 2020. The global pandemic has disrupted so many lives, both in the U.S. and around the globe, compromising not only their physical health but their economic health. 

Just look at the millions of people across numerous sectors who lost their jobs over the past year. With more than a month left to 2020, the U.S. has already seen a record amount of job cuts, according to global outplacement and transitioning firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.  

As of the end of October, 2.16 million job cuts have been announced in the U.S., up from 515,000 last year, which makes it the highest annual total on record since Challenger began tracking the data in 1993. The previous record came in 2001, with 1.96 million.  

To make matters worse, this year’s figure even exceeds the 1.22 million announced cuts experienced in 2008, during the Great Recession. 

Challenger’s data refers to the job cuts that were announced and do not necessarily reflect the exact time in which the cuts were implemented. The firm compiles its data from company announcements, press releases, SEC filings and Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notifications (WARNs). 

Unsurprisingly, “COVID-19” was the most cited reason for layoffs, followed by “market conditions,” “demand downturn” and “closing,” according to Challenger’s monthly jobs cuts report.

And of course, the media sector was no exception in the carnage, with an estimated 28,637 cuts as of the end of October. That total is rapidly approaching the previous record-breaking year of 2008, when there were 28,803 cuts in the media sector.  

With more than a month left in 2020this year could very well be the year in which the media sector sees a record amount of layoffsThe sector as defined by Challenger includes news (both broadcast and print), all print publications, all broadcast, television and movies, book publishing and digital media. 

The layoffs have been coming in waves this year, and levels peaked in May, after first spiking when the pandemic set in March. Numbers started rising steadily over the summer before the fall season dropped to lower levels not seen since June. 

It’s been a rough year for the media industry, with a continuous flow of layoff announcements coming from heavyweights including Comcast, AT&T, Disney and ViacomCBS 

Just last week, AMC Networks slashed 10% of its U.S. workforce amid a reorganization at the company, while ViacomCBS announced another round of layoffs, affecting about 100 employees. The latest round at ViacomCBS came after it announced in May that 450 employees would be let go as a result of “economic conditions,” and 117 employees were affected in February as a result of recent M&A.  

Comcastowned NBCUniversal’s latest round of layoffs also went into effect last week when 5% of employees within its television and streaming networks division were let go. It was part of the company’s wider plan to cut 10% of its total workforce. 

The media industry was hit hard but not nearly as hard as other industries tracked by Challenger. The top three industries impacted included leisure, transportation and retail. Media was actually 17 out of 30, right behind food and telecom industries.  

Despite the steep cuts in the sector, the media business added jobs as well. Challenger pointed out that there were 1,586 media-industry hiring announcements to date, compared with just 622 through the same period last year. 

So even if things feel like they couldn’t get any worse than they already have, it’s not all bad newsAlthough there has been a recent spike in COVID cases across the U.S., there have also been several positive vaccine announcements. It might take some time, but there appears to finally be some light at the end of the tunnel.