Caterpillar Axing Decatur Head Count By Another 300, As Backlog Of Orders Sinks By One-Third

Caterpillar Excavators In Gosselies, Belgium
Caterpillar excavator machines at a factory in Gosselies, Belgium, where the company has cut its head count significantly

Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT) announced Friday it would slash the workforce at its plant in Decatur, Ill., for the second time in as many months, according to the Decatur Herald & Review.

The biggest player in the farm-and-construction-machinery game, the company will lay off 460 employees in June and 300 workers in July at the Decatur plant, the newspaper reported. Before the reductions in force, Caterpillar employed about 4,000 people in the Midwestern city, the paper said.

A Caterpillar representative, Barbara Cox, said the layoffs are necessary to align supply and demand.

“Products built in Decatur are used in the mining industry, which has witnessed weaker market conditions when compared to last year,” the Herald & Review quoted Cox as saying. “While some cost-reduction measures -- such as temporary layoffs, shutdowns and shortened workweeks -- have already been implemented, further measures must be taken in the near term.”

Decatur is not the only place where the company has been cutting workers.

Caterpillar’s full-time employees dipped to 124,874 at the end of the first quarter this year from 127,238 at the end of the first quarter last year -- a drop of 2,364 -- the company reported on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Form 10-Q it filed Thursday. In addition, it said, “The flexible workforce decreased 9,047 for a total decrease in the global workforce of 11,411.”

Based in Peoria, Ill., Caterpillar also reported that in the first quarter its earnings plummeted by 45 percent, to $880 million in 2013 from $1.59 billion in 2012, and its revenue sank by 17 percent, to $13.21 billion from $15.98 billion on the same basis.

This kind of performance does not augur well for at least some of the company's current employees, especially as its SEC first-quarter reports for the past two years indicate the dollar amount of its backlog of orders was $20.4 billion this March 31 and $30.7 billion last March 31.

Yikes.

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