Companies took fewer actions to lay off 50 or more workers in September. Mass layoff actions fell 4% to 1,486 in September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That follows a 4% drop in August and marks the fewest since May. The number of workers laid off through those mass actions also fell during the month, down 11% to 133,379. There's definitely a trend here forming.

It helps to look at the charts. Here's the number of mass layoff actions followed by the number of workers affected by those actions:

mass layoff actions 2010-09.png

mass layoff workers 2010-09.png

Those green lines represent the averages from January 2004 through November 2007, before the recession began. You can see in each chart that mass layoffs are approaching these averages. For those workers who lost their jobs through mass layoffs, September's number was less than 2,000 away from the average. It was also the fewest workers struck by mass layoffs since April 2008. Actions had a similar fate last month. Excluding the May blip, September also saw the fewest mass layoff actions since April 2008.

In the less volatile measure of mass layoff actions, the trend is quite clear. Mass layoffs have been declining. But in a recovery, we should actually expect such actions to trend below the average during the 2004-2007 stable economy. We're still not there yet, which explains part of the reason why job growth isn't higher. It's not just that firms aren't hiring; they're still firing.

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