WASHINGTON--Nearly 545,000 workers were laid off from their jobs during the first quarter of 2001, a 25 percent increase compared with the same period last year.

According to the Labor Department, 171,466 workers lost their jobs in 1,527 mass layoff events in March. Manufacturing industries accounted for 43 percent of those events and 51 percent of the workers who lost their jobs. A year earlier, manufacturing industries accounted for 33 percent of layoff events and 35 percent of the workers who lost their jobs.

Among manufacturers, the transportation equipment industry posted the highest number of layoffs, accounting for 8.9 percent of all workers who lost their jobs in March. The majority of layoffs occurred among manufacturers of motor vehicles, car bodies and auto parts.

The electronics industry suffered the second highest number of layoffs in March, contributing 8.4 percent to the total number of workers out of jobs. Most layoffs in this industry were by manufacturers of printed circuit boards and semiconductors.

The largest number of layoffs in the first quarter of 2001 occurred in the 13-state West region, where 190,902 people lost their jobs. In contrast, the nine-state Northeast region had the fewest number of laid-off workers: 60,938.