Boeing employees work on the vertical stabilizer of a 767 cargo plane in the Boeing factory on May 17 in Everett. Boeing cut nearly 1,600 jobs in the state in April, the biggest one month drop since January 2003. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Boeing continues to cut jobs, citing need to stay competitive

EVERETT — The Boeing Co.’s workforce in Washington dropped by 1,582 in April.

That is the biggest month-over-month decline for the airplane maker since January 2003, when it cut approximately 1,800 jobs in the state, according to The Daily Herald’s analysis of employment data on Boeing’s website.

At the time, the company was struggling through a downturn begun with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which sent airlines reeling as would-be flyers opted to stay grounded. Commercial aviation further was hammered by rising fuel prices, a global recession and other market challenges. As airlines canceled and delayed orders for new jetliners, Boeing slashed its Washington workforce from 80,000 in the fall of 2001 to 62,000 one year later. It bottomed out at 52,763 in June 2004.

Boeing executives say the need to curb costs in a competitive market is driving the current paring down of jobs. In 2016, the company cut its global workforce by nearly 11,000. Most of that reduction — 7,357 jobs — came in Washington, where Boeing makes nearly all its commercial airplanes.

Company leaders have said they expect to reduce jobs at about the same rate in 2017. Through the first four months of the year, Boeing has shed 2,823 jobs around Puget Sound, dropping to 69,058 on April 27, the most recent data available.

After the downturn in the early 2000s, the company’s workforce in the state peaked at 87,023 by October 2012. At the time, it had 175,742 employees around the world, with the vast majority in the United States. Its global payroll by late April had 144,976, a decline of nearly 31,000.

Most of the job reductions since early 2016 have come through buyouts, retirements and selective hiring freezes. The company had avoided major layoffs until this year. So far, it has issued 1,162 layoff notices to workers in Washington. That total includes a limited number of notices issued twice. The company has declined to say exactly how many workers have been affected.

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

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