“I need to understand if businesses in my portfolio are in distress, and I need to know as early as possible.” We’ve heard this phrase, or some variation of it, from SMB lenders of all sizes in recent weeks. With many U.S. small businesses affected by COVID-19, lenders are trying to get a handle on their risk exposure and understand what lies ahead.
What’s tricky is that to date, there haven’t been many ways to get early signal on the health of a business. There has often been significant data lag -- and sometimes a lack of data entirely -- for lenders trying to proactively address businesses in distress. This is why we’re excited to announce the launch of our WARN Act Notifications data attribute, which serves as a rare leading indicator of business risk by revealing a company’s planned layoffs.
Companies conducting layoffs of a certain size must publicly notify their state due to the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988, also known as the WARN Act. At the state level, WARN Act requirements vary; in New York, for example, any business with at least 50 employees must provide 90 days advance notice if the business plans to lay off 25 or more employees. WARN Act data is uniquely valuable because it enables lenders to identify at-risk businesses earlier for more timely risk mitigation.
As with all of our small business data during the COVID-19 outbreak, this attribute is available free of charge until June 1st.
Our beta coverage starts with New York State, where 2,800 businesses have filed 5,300 WARN notices since 2012. There are more than 2000 layoff filings in March and April 2020 alone, meaning that in just six weeks we’ve seen more layoffs than in the entire history of the series since 2012. The historical data doesn’t appear seasonal, so we can assume the recent surge in layoffs is driven by COVID-19.
To discover whether a business in New York has a WARN Act filing, you can use the Enigma Lookup API with the warn_act_notifications_beta key. If the business has filed, we will show the self-reported reason, the number and percentage of employees impacted, whether the filing was for layoff or closure, the filing date, and the employee count before the layoffs. You can access the data right now by signing up for a free API account, or by contacting us for access.
Interested in another dataset besides WARN Act filings? Please send us your requests.