Boeing adds nearly 1,000 machinists jobs in recent weeks

By Michelle Dunlop Herald Writer

With airplane production expected to rise in 2011, the Boeing Co. has added nearly 1,000 machinists in the past eight weeks.

That includes the roughly 193 machinists the company will hire Friday. Based on information from the machinists union, that would be the highest number of new machinists hired by Boeing in a single week since 2005.

However, since the end of 2009, the aerospace company’s net payroll in Washington state has increased only 430 workers, to 72,782 employees this year. That’s through Oct. 28, which doesn’t include about 500 recently hired machinists. Boeing updates its employment data on a monthly basis.

“We’ve announced rate increases and have to have people on board to be able to meet our goals,” said Tim Healy, Boeing spokesman.

After slowing the pace on some production lines as a result of the recession, Boeing announced it would speed up its 737, 777 and 747 programs next year.

Boeing also plans to ramp up production on its new 787 program after the company delivers the first Dreamliner. Although that event is expected next year, the first 787 delivery has been in question since last week when Boeing grounded its 787 test planes to investigate an electrical fire that occurred during flight testing.

Besides hiring to fulfill the increasing production demands, Boeing also has to fill the positions of retiring workers. About 50 machinists in the Puget Sound region retired in October.

Boeing tends to slow its pace of hiring in the last few months of the year as the holidays and shutdown approach. For instance, the last two Novembers, Boeing hired just 73 and 48 machinists in 2009 and 2008. Boeing will have added about 490 machinists this month, including the 193 machinists to be hired Friday.

Employment among Boeing’s engineers and professional workers has remained pretty stable, with minor fluctuations, over the past few years, said Bill Dugovich, communications director for the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace. However, SPEEA members continue to work a lot of overtime to get Boeing’s 787 and 747-8 jets on track.

As Boeing’s 787 and 747-8 programs transition from the development stage to regular production, the company’s employment levels likely will stabilize and perhaps decline modestly.