The aviation manufacturing industry in Kansas has been hit hard by the recession but, at least so far, employment hasn’t fallen to the levels it reached after the 2001 terrorist attacks, according to a May 3 Forbes.com report.
Aviation manufacturing employment has declined by about 20% since November of 2008, the report said, while in 2001 aviation employment dropped 35% over the three years that followed. Whether current employment will slip that much is uncertain, mostly because the downturn is still in its early stages, the report said.
The aviation industry is crucial in Wichita, where it employs one out of eight people. A downturn in aviation ripples throughout the community. Cuts in aircraft production hurt scores of suppliers in the area, “companies that will now be laying people off,” said Keith Lawing, director of the Workforce Alliance. It also affects many non-aviation businesses, including retailers and restaurants, because there is less aviation payroll money in the community.
Almost immediately following the terrorist attack, Boeing cut 5,000 jobs in Wichita as the commercial airline market faltered. Eventually, the slowing economy took its toll on the city’s general aviation aircraft builders, which then had layoffs of their own, Forbes.com reported.
Putting into perspective, the report said that in March of 2001, 46,000 people were employed by aviation manufacturing in Kansas. That fell to 30,000 by June of 2004, a drop of 35%, before employment began to turn upward, but about 4,000 of those jobs never came back. Aviation manufacturing employment peaked in November of 2008 at about 42,000 jobs. Since then, 8,212 jobs have been confirmed lost, according to the Workforce Alliance for South Central Kansas. That includes 1,300 people at Cessna Aircraft, who were given 60-day layoff notices on April 29, and Cessna has said it will issue 60-day layoff notices to another 700 workers by mid-June, most of them in Wichita.
Hawker Beechcraft, another Wichita-based firm, is planning a third round of cuts, but hasn’t yet said how many jobs will be lost. Of the city’s largest manufacturers, Spirit AeroSystems, a major Boeing sub-contractor, is the only one not to announce layoffs.
Of the aviation segments, the business jet market, which grew 17% each year over the past five years, has been hit hardest, the Forbes report said. In contrast, the jetliner market grew about 7% a year over the same time.
To read the full report: www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2009/05/03/ap6370875.html