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Places With the Most Layoff Anxiety – 2023 Study


While mass layoffs in the tech sector have dominated news headlines recently, the labor market remains especially strong. The U.S. economy added 517,000 jobs in January 2023 and unemployment dipped to its lowest point in more than a half-century. But fears of recession still linger. A recent Harris Poll and Fast Company survey of 1,000 Americans found that approximately three-quarters were at least somewhat anxious about the economy going into 2023.

To get a sense of where people are most anxious about potential job losses, SmartAsset analyzed Google Trends data for 94 metro areas and ranked each based on the average search interest of six layoff-related keywords: “layoffs,” “severance pay,” “recession,” “downsizing,” “unemployment benefits” and “furlough.”

We looked at Google Trends to get insight into what residents are searching for – and by extension, what they are anxious about – when it comes to layoff-related trends and assistance. The higher an area’s average search interest for these terms, the higher their ranking in our study. For more information on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create the final rankings, read our Data and Methodology section below.

Key Findings

  • Recession generates the most interest on Google. The word “recession” had the highest average search interest score (69.14) out of the six keywords that we used to measure layoff anxiety. “Severance pay” was the second-most popular keyword (49.26) across the 94 metro areas, followed by “downsizing” (20.03), “unemployment benefits” (17.46), “layoffs” (16.70) and “furlough” (14.31).
  • Layoff anxiety goes far beyond Silicon Valley. While San Francisco ranks No. 1, other cities in California, as well as metro areas in Texas, demonstrated high layoff anxiety. In fact, eight of the 10 metro areas with the highest average search volume for the six keywords related to job loss are located in these two states. The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington, and Lafayette, Louisiana, metro areas are the only two in the top 10 not located in either state.
  • Worry is lowest in this small New England city. Burlington, Vermont, has the lowest average score (22.17) across our study. That means the six layoff-related keywords comprise a smaller percentage of total Google searches in the area than any other metro area in our analysis.

1. San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA

The average search interest for the six layoff-related keywords was 57.83 in San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, the highest average across our study. Specifically, searches for three of those terms – “layoffs,” “severance pay” and “recession” – were proportionally higher in San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley than any other metro area in our study.

2. San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, CA

Despite the U.S. Navy being the No. 1 employer in San Diego, layoff anxiety is second-highest in this SoCal metro area, according to Google Trends data. The average search volume for the six layoff-related keywords in San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad was 44.17. Of those search terms, “severance pay” and “recession” were the most popular, while “unemployment benefits” was the least popular.

3. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA

The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro area, a tech hub that’s home to companies like Amazon and Microsoft, has the third-highest average search interest (42.67) for the six keywords related to layoff anxiety. “Recession” had the most search interest out of the six phrases, followed by “severance pay” and “layoffs.” “Unemployment benefits,” by contrast, is the least popular out of the six search terms.

4. Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, TX

The Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown metro area is home to a variety of industries and businesses, including Fortune 500 companies like Tesla, Dell Technologies and Oracle. But layoff anxiety is the fourth-highest in this part of central Texas, where the average search interest for our six keywords was 41.33. “Recession” was the most searched keyword out of the six phrases related to layoff anxiety.

5. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX

Fortune 500 companies like AT&T, American Airlines and ExxonMobil are all based in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metro area, which has an average search interest of 39.50 for the six keywords related to layoff anxiety. Of those six search phrases, “recession” was the most popular for Google searches, while “furlough” was the least popular.

Labor Market Remains Tight Amid Tech Layoffs

Layoffs at some of the most high-profile tech companies in recent months have contributed to the general sense of economic uncertainty and layoff anxiety.

In early November 2022, Facebook’s parent company announced plans to lay off 11,000 workers, or 13% of its staff. A week later, news broke that Amazon also intended to jettison 10,000 workers.

The onslaught of layoffs continued in January when Google’s parent company said it planned to cut 12,000 jobs or 6% of its workforce. Microsoft also announced 10,000 layoffs in the same month, while Amazon moved to lay off another 8,000.

According to 365 DataScience, tech companies laid off more than 150,000 employees in 2022 and cut another 68,500 jobs in January 2023.

But the wave of layoffs belies the current strength of the labor market, even as recession fears loom.

In December, unemployment ticked down to 3.5% as the economy added 260,000 nonfarm payroll jobs. In January, the labor market got even hotter as the economy added 517,000 and unemployment fell to 3.4%, the lowest level since May 1969.

Hiring has also outpaced layoffs and separations. Even though there were 5.9 million total separations in November, including 1.4 million layoffs and discharges, hiring increased by 3.9%, reaching 6.1 million that same month. And while layoffs and discharges inched up 1.0% in December, 6.2 million people were hired and another 11 million new jobs opened.

Data and Methodology

SmartAsset analyzed Google trends data to determine how often people are searching for six layoff-related search terms in 94 metro areas. For each metro area, Google Trends calculates a value of 0 to 100 based on the popularity of each keyword there. While 100 is assigned to the area where a particular keyword has the highest search volume as a percentage of total searches in that place, a value of 50 indicates a location where a phrase is half as popular in searches.

Keep in mind that a higher value means a given keyword comprises a higher proportion of all queries, not a higher absolute search count.

To calculate the scores for our rankings, we pulled Google Trends data from Jan. 19, 2022 to Jan. 19, 2023 for the following search terms: “layoffs,” “severance pay,” “recession,” “downsizing,” “unemployment benefits” and “furlough.”

For each metro area, we averaged the search interest scores of all six keywords to calculate an average search volume. The metro area with the highest average score is the place with the most layoff anxiety, while the metro area with the lowest average score has the least layoff anxiety.

Tips for Navigating a Potential Layoff

  • Build an emergency fund. An emergency fund with three to six months’ worth of living expenses is like a financial security blanket. A cash reserve can soften the financial blow of a potential job loss and keep you afloat while you look for work. If you don’t have an emergency fund yet, it’s important to start building while you have a steady income. Use our savings calculator to get started.
  • Remember to pay taxes on your unemployment. If you qualify for unemployment benefits, don’t forget that you’ll owe federal income tax on the money. You may also owe state income tax on the benefits depending on where you live. Of the states that levy an income tax, only six exempt unemployment benefits from those taxes: Alabama, California, Montana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
  • Let a pro help you plan for the future. A financial advisor can help you create a comprehensive financial plan with contingencies to weather future uncertainty. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Photo credit: © Donson