State share of Boeing jobs grows even as number shrinks

EVERETT — Depending on how you measure it, Boeing has expanded or contracted in Washington since the late 1990s.

Back then it had more than 100,000 workers in the state, about 20,000 more than it has now. But Washington has grown as a share of Boeing’s total workforce from about 43 percent in 1998 to 48 percent this year, according to The Daily Herald’s analysis of company employment records.

After merging with McDonnell Douglas in 1997, Boeing shed nearly 90,000 jobs by August 2005. Contributing factors included fallout from the merger and a decline in demand for commercial airliners after the 9/11 attacks.

Washington bottomed out in mid-2004 with 52,763 Boeing jobs in the state. Since then Boeing employment here has climbed to 81,724 as of June. About half those workers are at the company’s Everett facility, where it assembles its twin-aisle jetliners.

Boeing’s Washington workforce has even expanded since the company set up a second 787 assembly plant in North Charleston, South Carolina. Since that facility began limited production in July 2011, Boeing has added nearly 3,000 jobs here.

In recent years, though, no state has added more Boeing jobs than South Carolina — 8,359 as of June, according to the company.

And California and Kansas have lost the most.

After the McDonnell Douglas merger, Boeing had about 42,000 jobs in California. It has 18,394 now, which is closer to the company’s pre-merger total.

Boeing is expected to cut more jobs in California next year as it ends production of the C-17, a military cargo airplane developed by McDonnell Douglas.

Those job losses are being offset somewhat by engineering work being moved from metro Puget Sound to California.

Some of the changes in job numbers are due to sales and purchases of subsidiary companies, such as Boeing unloading Rocketdyne in 2005, which had about 3,200 employees, according to a Los Angeles Times report at the time.

That same year, Boeing sold most of its Wichita, Kansas, operation to a Canadian investment firm. The outcome — Spirit AeroSystems, Inc., still supplies fuselage sections for the 737 and 787.

But Boeing proper is all but gone from Kansas, down from more than 22,000 in the late 1990s to 261 last month.

The future is not entirely clear.

Boeing’s defense business faces continued weak market demand, according to analysts.

The company will likely look across the country for assembly sites for its next clean-sheet airplanes — replacements for the 737 and 757, aerospace analysts say.

And automation is expected to grow in production, meaning fewer shopfloor jobs. Automation on the 777X will likely mean the line will need fewer workers than the in-production 777 classic.

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dcatchpole.

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