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Boeing to shed 4,500 jobs

Boeing says that it's Commercial Airplanes workforce will shrink by about 4,500 jobs in 2009 "as part of an effort to ensure competitiveness and control costs in the face of a weakening global economy."

The cuts, according to the company, will bring employment at its Commercial Airplanes division to about 63,500, or about the same as it was at the start of last year. The division added 5,000 jobs in 2008.

From the company's press release:

"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 Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

"We have made significant strides in recent years to achieve greater efficiency and productivity, but we still face challenges that we must address," Carson said. "We regret the disruption to those affected by this decision, but we believe that acting now will allow us to be in a financial position to adapt to market uncertainties, meet our customer commitments, continue investing in our current and future product lines, and protect our competitiveness in a fiercely competitive business environment."

The company says that attrition and reduced use of contract labor will account for some of the lost jobs, but that "layoffs of Beoing employees also are necessary."

Many of the job reductions will be in overhead functions and other areas not directly associated with airplane production. This will enable Boeing to continue focusing on successfully executing new airplane development programs, delivering airplanes to customers, continuously improving productivity and quality, and supporting customer airplanes in the fleet.

Most of the reductions are expected to occur in Washington state in the second quarter of the year. Affected employees will receive 60-day notices beginning in late February. 

In Olympia, Gov. Chris Gregoire called the move "sad and disappointing, and yet more evidence of the deepening national recession."

She said she'd talked with Boeing CEO Scott Carson. I have been in touch with Scott Carson, Boeing’s chief executive and president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

"While I understand this was a business decision, I feel for those workers and their families," she said. She pledged rapid help with unemployment claims and job-seeking from the state's Employment Security Department for laid-off workers.
As Gregoire pointed out, Boeing's move follows record-high unemployment claims filed last month in Washington. She said she's working with Congress and President-elect Obama on a federal stimulus plan. Gregoire also says she'll soon announce a state stimulus plan "to fund ready-to-go projects."

In Washington, D.C., U.S. Sen. Patty Murray calle the news another reminder that the recession's hitting Washington.

"Boeing is part of the lifeblood of our region and when Boeing hurts, Washington state hurts," she said. She echoed Gov. Gregoire's comments about working with the new administration.

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