The percentage of large newspapers and digital news sites that experienced layoffs fell considerably in 2021 compared to 2020. The 2021 number of US layoffs was the lowest since 2017, the Pew Research Center says in an analysis. What inflation, increase of interest rates and other economic worries will mean for 2022 is not known yet but one of the US biggest publishers recently announced substantial layoffs after a disappointing financial report.
“In 2021, 11% of high-circulation newspapers – those with an average Sunday circulation of 50,000 or more – experienced layoffs, compared with three times that share the year before (33%), when the coronavirus pandemic upended the nation’s economy. The 2021 figure is the lowest percentage of large newspapers experiencing layoffs since the Center began tracking this trend in 2017.”
“Similarly, only 3% of high-traffic digital-native news outlets – those with a monthly average of at least 10 million unique visitors – had layoffs in 2021, also marking the lowest figure since 2017.”
The research centre says that unlike previous years, major newspapers did not experience multiple rounds of publicly reported layoffs in 2021. In 2020, for example, 11% of the high-circulation newspapers that experienced layoffs had more than one round of announced layoffs.
One possible explanation for the decline in layoffs is the growth of the US economy in 2021, which rebounded from the pandemic-induced stresses of 2020. Indeed, the US added a record number of jobs in 2021. Widespread staff cuts in 2020 also may have left some newsrooms with less room to cut in 2021, the Pew says.
The report notes that also other sources that track media layoffs have also found a decline from 2020 to 2021. And some major layoffs in the broader media industry occurred at organizations outside of the scope of the analysis. For example, Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the owner of nearly 200 television stations across the US., laid off more than 400 people in March 2021.
“It’s possible that the downturn in staff cuts at newspapers will be unique to 2021, however. In August of this year, Gannett, a chain with over 200 papers, laid off 3% of its US workforce, or about 400 employees, impacting at least 70 different newsrooms”, the report says.