Challenger Pharmaceutical Industry Job Cuts Report

Published June 18, 2021

Job cuts announced by Pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. soared in May surpassing the industry total for the entire year of 2020, according to a report released Tuesday from global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

In 2020, a record year for job cut announcements with 2,304,755, 289% higher than the 592,556 announced in all industries in 2019, Pharmaceutical companies announced just 2,131, the lowest total for the industry since Challenger began tracking Pharmaceutical cuts in 1999. 

Announced Pharmaceutical Cuts (monthly)

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.


Last month, these companies announced 2,134 job cut plans for a total of 2,322, as Pharmaceutical makers closed plants and cut positions in the U.S. The previous lowest total for the sector occurred in 2000 with 2,453 cuts.

“Pharmaceutical companies were tasked with producing vaccines, testing media, and therapeutics related to the pandemic. As we enter the recovery phase, Pharma companies may scale back on this work and move forward with restructuring plans that took a back seat due to COVID,” said Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Pharma Cuts as a Percentage of all Cuts 2000-2020

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.


Meanwhile, the Pharmaceutical sector has announced 1,347 hiring plans through May, compared to 660 hiring announcements through May 2020.

“The churn in this sector – the increased hiring announcements coupled with the higher number of job cuts – is good news for job seekers looking for work in Pharmaceuticals. It indicates there are continued opportunities even as the industry is in flux,” said Challenger.

Three other industries tracked by Challenger saw fewer job cuts in 2020 than the previous year. The Chemical sector, an industry that also aided in the pandemic fight, announced 332 cuts last year, a 73% reduction from the 1,209 cuts announced the previous year. Financial firms announced 13,677 cuts in 2020, down 46% from the 25,148 announced in 2019. Utility companies announced 1,866 cuts last year, down 22% from the 2,367 announced in the prior year.


# # #

Contact Colleen Madden Blumenfeld for more data or to set up an interview with SVP Andy Challenger.

Contact Challenger for Media Inquiries

Download Full Report with Additional Tables