Underwear Maker Slashes Work Force

Fruit of the Loom Inc. will lay off about 2,900 U.S. workers, or 19 percent of its domestic work force, and shutter a Louisiana manufacturing plant as it shifts production to cheaper overseas plants.

The Chicago-based maker of underwear, T-shirts and active wear under the Fruit of the Loom, BVD, Gitano and Munsingwear names already had cut about 4,200 jobs over the last three months in an effort to compete better in the global marketplace.

“We have to shift to lower-cost manufacturing, react to our inventory levels and consumer demand - all factors affecting the announcements we made” Tuesday, spokesman Mark Steinkrauss said.

The company gave 60-day notices to 1,035 workers in Kentucky. In Louisiana, 1,873 people were losing their jobs. The move cuts the company’s domestic work force to about 12,500 jobs.

Fruit of the Loom has been working to boost its sales and stock performance after more than three years of flat earnings. But its results have been hurt by stiff competition, which has led to heavy discounting and huge inventory buildups.

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