Boeing cutting 4,500 jobs
The aircraft maker, which had been adding jobs during the last year's labor market downturn, will undo its staffing gains with move.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Aircraft maker Boeing, one of the few employers that added workers through the nationwide labor market downturn last year, announced Friday it will cut 4,500 jobs this year, undoing the employment gains it achieved in 2008.
The job cuts in Boeing's Commercial Airplanes division will take employment in the unit back to 63,500, about where it stood a year ago.
"We are taking prudent actions to make sure Boeing remains well positioned in today's difficult economic environment," said Scott Carson, president and CEO of the unit.
The news comes on the same day that the Labor Department reported that employers shed 2.6 million jobs last year, the worst job loss suffered by the U.S. economy since 1945.
Boeing (BA, Fortune 500) went through a 57-day strike by the International Association of Machinists last fall, but continued to hire about 55 workers a week as the strike began; it was eager to increase employment to meet growing demand for its aircraft.
"We believe Boeing has many other options available, and we will push them to retain their valued employees," said Tom Wroblewski, President of Machinists Union District 751, in a statement.
Wroblewski added that Boeing is continuing to hire union members and no airplane orders have been cancelled at this point. Thirteen new members were added to the payroll last Friday and another 19 new members were added today, according to the union.
Earlier this week, Boeing reported it ended 2008 with 662 new net commercial airplane orders, giving it a backlog of unfilled commercial orders of more than 3,700 airplanes. While that was down sharply from the record 1,413 net orders in 2007, that year's orders marked the third-straight record year for new orders.
With the slump in orders, a delay in the rollout of its new 787 Dreamliner and the sharp downturn in the economy, the company has started a program to reduce overhead costs and discretionary spending. Boeing said that while normal attrition and a reduction in contract labor will account for some of the job reductions, layoffs of employees would also occur.
Most of the job reductions will come in Washington state, and many will be in overhead functions and other areas not directly associated with airplane production, according to the company's statement.