Ford's '20,000' layoff number — cited by Challenger's jobs report — is wildly inaccurate

Key Points
  • Ford plans to cut 1,400 jobs, a company spokeswoman says.
  • On Friday, the consultancy firm Challenger corrected its error, saying planned layoffs dropped to 33,092 in the month from the 51,692 initially reported.
Ford outsells GM in May

Ford is not laying off 20,000 of its workers, a spokesperson for the auto company told CNBC on Thursday.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas on Thursday reported the number of jobs employers planned to cut in May had jumped, citing massive layoffs at Ford. The widely followed report led with a claim that the auto industry announced 20,271 job cuts for the month, with the majority of those stemming from Ford.

On Friday, the consultancy firm corrected its error, saying planned layoffs dropped to 33,092 in the month from the 51,692 initially reported.

In its report Thursday, Challenger CEO John A. Challenger said: "Ford's announcement of 20,000 global layoffs to streamline and cut costs is a typical strategy of large corporations who need to pivot to stay competitive."

However, Ford told CNBC it never confirmed the 20,000 number with any media source.

In fact, the actual number is more like 1,400 jobs being eliminated, according to a Ford spokesperson. Challenger used that figure in its corrected report Friday.

Ford "plans to reduce 10 percent of our salaried costs and personnel levels in North America and Asia Pacific this year, using voluntary packages," a Ford spokeswoman told CNBC on Thursday.

"We expect 1,400 salaried positions to be affected. This action does not affect the following skill teams: manufacturing, product development, IT, Global Data and Analytics and Ford Credit," the spokeswoman added.

In an email to CNBC, Challenger Gray's Blake Palder cited media reports from the Washington Examiner and Forbes as its sources for the numbers.

Officials from the media organizations did not immediately reply to CNBC's request for comment.

Palder told CNBC, "It was based off those articles that I used the numbers for our report."

Challenger Report: Layoff rise sharply in May, up more that 40%

Colleen Madden, another Challenger spokeswoman, added in an email, "We use company announcements, media reports, and SEC filings to compile numbers. We found numerous reports citing the 10 percent global job cuts for Ford. We used those reports in our numbers."

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