On Sept. 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy, and the financial crisis was officially underway. Fast-forward five years, and the economy is still down a net total of 240,000 jobs from where it was five years ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). But during the worst of the recession back in 2010, the economy was behind a net total of 8.8 million jobs. Regular cuts, as many workers know all too well, have hit nearly every sector of the economy -- and many sectors are still struggling.
Many jobs have returned, but not enough. "In reality, we've actually made very few improvements to the labor market," said Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the liberal and non-profit Washington D.C.-based research organization, the Economic Policy Institute. "You also have to consider all the jobs we should have been adding over these past five years, instead of trying to recoup the jobs that have been lost."
But which employers laid off the most workers? To mark the five-year anniversary, AOL Jobs contacted employment services firm, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, which checked its database. The result: a list of the top 10 job-losing employers -- and a window into not only how brutal the crisis has been but who has suffered the most. These workplaces are responsible for 475,918 of the jobs that have been lost since 2008. Four of the ten employers who have cut the most jobs are in the finance industry.
A caveat about the list: The Challenger firm focused on combined totals from announced workforce reductions, which of course is automatically going to put the spotlight on larger employers. See below for the top ten.
10. U.S. Postal Service
Major layoffs: 2009
Total jobs lost: 30,000
2013 total workers: 522,000*
Why so many? The financial crisis has of course overlapped with the digital revolution, which has taken a much-publicized toll on the U.S. Postal Service. And the first full year of the financial crisis saw workers hurt beyond those who were simply cut; nearly a quarter of the Postal Service's 646,000 workers were offered early retirement, as CNN reported.
9. Verizon Wireless
Major layoffs: 2009, 2012
Total jobs lost: 30,700
2013 total workers: 195,400*
Why so many? Verizon's cuts in 2009 were more related to its buyout of wireless service provider Alltel in 2009. But last year, Verizon made more even more cuts after 45,000 Verizon employees went on strike after the company pushed for cuts in health benefits and pensions when contracts with two major unions expired. The cuts came in the company's traditional wireless division, as CNN Money reported.
8. Merrill Lynch
Major layoffs: 2008
Total jobs lost: 35,000
2013 total workers: 284,000 (Bank of America)*
Why so many? Before the company was taken over by Bank of America at the end of 2008, it pursued a punishing round of layoffs. In one fell swoop, 15 percent of its workforce, or some 30,000 bankers, were let go from the investment bank and brokerage divisions at the firm.
7. JPMorgan Chase
Major layoffs: 2008, 2009, 2013
Total jobs lost: 35,000
2013 total workers: 260,095*
Why so many? When the crisis struck in 2008, leading mortgage lender Washington Mutual was in near collapse. JPMorgan Chase moved in and bought most of the company, but cut much of the staff, including nearly 10,000 in December of 2008. Company CEO Jamie Dimon is however often credited for making moves that have minimized job losses. Back in 2006, for instance, he began tracking how many phone lines his bank owned, and found some 50,000 were being unused, as Marketwatch reported. As a result, the company was able to cut down on the wasteful expense.
6. Bank of America
Major layoffs: 2011, 2012
Total jobs lost: 37,402
2013 total workers: 284,000*
Why so many? Before the financial crisis, Bank of America (BofA) was recognized for going on an "acquisition binge," in the words of Marketplace.org. And in trying to figure out what to cut ever since the crisis hit, BofA has been focused on scaling back its mortgage lending divisions, much of which it inherited when it took over Countrywide, once the biggest U.S. mortgage lender, in 2008. Like many of its peer banks, BofA has also cut jobs to implement a "vast new regulatory system that cuts into profits," as the Wall Street Journal reported.
Major layoffs: 2009, 2013
Total jobs lost: 40,111
2013 total workers: 125,341*
Why so many? The world's leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment took a direct hit when those sectors suffered in the financial crisis. Cuts were made to ensure that costs were in line with revenue. And more bloodletting may ensue; this spring, the company said it expects a 50 percent decline in sales of traditional mining equipment, as the Chicago Tribune reported.
4. Circuit City
Major layoffs: 2008, 2009
Total jobs lost: 41,305
2013 total workers: none
Why so many? Pressure from competitors including Best Buy and Walmart proved too much for Circuit City as it closed its 567 stores back in 2009. But during its final gasps, the company tried to stay afloat by replacing thousands of its highest paid clerks with lower-paid replacements. The tech community was not impressed; "Let's face it, customer service in Circuit City is far from stellar, and ditching highly qualified personnel does nothing to improve that situation," Gizmodo wrote after a 2008 purge.
Major layoffs: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012
Total jobs lost: 74,300
2013 total workers: 331,800*
Why so many? The world's largest tech company embarked on a vigorous cost-cutting mission as soon as Mark Hurd took over as company CEO in 2005; he laid off 15,200 employees, or 10 percent of the workforce in his first year, as CNN Money reported. So when the crisis began, the company only revved up its strategy of cuts, telling thousands of workers they were "redundant" as the company transitioned away focusing on hardware production and towards tech outsourcing. But the moves have been seen in the tech community as undoing the company's identity as a service provider. Indeed, HP is planning to cut 27,000 IT professionals by the end of 2014, according to CIO.
Major layoffs: 2008, 2011, 2012
Total jobs lost: 75,000
2013 total workers: 267,150*
Why so many? Citigroup took $20 billion in bailout money from the federal government in 2008 through the Toxic Asset Relief Program (TARP). But it wasn't enough as CEO Vikram Pandit also began laying off workers that year. The cuts have come across Citi's divisions, from combined insurance to investment banking. And hardly anyone expects the cuts to stop. After Michael Corbat took over from Pandit last year as company CEO, he promised the bank would reduce "excess capacity and expenses, whether they center on technology, real estate or simplifying our operations," as USA Today reported.
1. General Motors
Major layoffs: 2008, 2009
Total jobs lost: 77,100
2013 total workers: 202,000*
Why so many? When credit vanished after the market collapse of 2008, GM, along with the Ford Motor Company and Chrysler all found themselves with major cash shortages on their hands. The problems in the sector were also compounded by the rising price of fuel earlier in the decade, which encouraged consumers to buy fuel efficient vehicles made overseas, as the Associated Press reported. It got so bad that GM was on the verge of complete liquidation by April, 2009, before the government stepped in to provide the famous $85 billion bailout. But the instability resulted in mass layoffs which included the elimination of thousands of management jobs in addition to plant positions.
*The total number of employees was provided by Glassdoor and the companies themselves.