The General Electric layoffs in 2017 continue to mount, numbering in the hundreds and affecting workers across the U.S. The General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) has found itself stuck in financial woes as earnings reports continue to disappoint and the company struggles to recover from years of downturns.
The company, which employs over 100,000 employees in the U.S., has already shed 30,000 workers since 2014, and its most recent quarterly report did not portend a turnaround. GE Global Research, GE Transportation, GE Power, GE Lighting, and GE Aviation are some of the many divisions within the company that are languishing in the company’s current financial state, with job cuts impacting many parts of GE throughout 2017.
GE Transportation Laid Off 825 Employees in 2017 as Rail Market Goes Down
The most significant chunk of the General Electric layoffs in 2017 is a result of a depressed domestic rail market and a reduction in locomotive manufacturing. As many as 575 jobs are set to be cut from a century-old manufacturing factory in Pennsylvania. The cuts will take place through 2018 as the company shifts production for international customers to a facility in Fort Worth, Texas. This comes after about 1,500 employees were culled from the workforce in 2016, bringing the total number of Erie workers down to 3,000 before the General Electric layoffs in 2017.
But as production moves to Fort Worth, the decline in locomotive sales has hit that plant as well. The company cut 250 employees from the Texas plant, or about a third of the workers there.
North American freight railcar loads have seen a drop of about 10% in the last couple years, leading to these cost-saving cuts. Thousands of locomotives sit unused as demand for crude-oil transport falls and coal production decreases.
The Fort Worth facility will only need 50% “of the site’s available capacity,” GE released in a statement.
“More than 15 percent of the nation’s freight locomotive fleet remains parked,” the statement read.
GE Power Lays Off 350 Employees in Waukesha
With GE employing over 100,000 people across the U.S., the General Electric layoffs in 2017 have hit communities in many different locales. One of the areas hardest hit is that of Waukesha, Wisconsin, which saw over 300 jobs leave the U.S. for Canada.
GE decided to close the plant after the Export-Import Bank—essentially a government credit agency used to fund American exports—was allowed to expire in 2015 when Congress refused to extend its charter. GE then entered talks with Canada about financing and began plans to move the factory north. While the Export-Import Bank was eventually restored, it was too late for the GE factory.
Employees were quick to level their anger at House Speaker Paul Ryan, whose congressional district sits just outside the location of the factory, for not doing more to save the plant.
In fact, Ryan called the Export-Import Bank “corporate welfare.”
President Donald Trump was also a focus of disappointment to the laid-off workers. Trump had promised to protect and restore manufacturing jobs across the U.S. Wisconsin was a key swing-state that helped led to Trump’s electoral college victory, and one of the Rust Belt states that switched from Democrat to Republican in the latest election.
A failure to fulfill the promise of job revitalization may cost Trump politically down the line.
GE Lighting Lays Off a Total of 281 in Ohio & Illinois Plant
The General Electric layoffs in 2017 are not centered on a single division, either. While GE transportation layoffs account for the highest number of cuts, GE lighting layoffs have also seen 281 people in Ohio and Illinois lose their jobs.
Circleville, Ohio, closed its light bulb plant in August, shedding 148 jobs.
“Consumer demand for traditional lighting is at an all-time low, and that shift has been supported by the U.S. government phasing out incandescent bulbs,” said Don Hatfield, a manager for GE Lighting, in the letter. “As a result, volume is down dramatically at the Circleville Lamp Plant, and the facility is operating at 90 percent below capacity.”
In Mattoon, Illinois, 133 employees were also cut in August.
GE Global Research Laid Off 150 Employees in Niskayuna
GE reduced roughly 150 workers from its research division on River Road in Niskayuna, New York. The GE Global Research layoffs come as a result of the company pivoting its research resources towards machine learning, robotics, automation, and other new-age technologies and eschewing some of its older interests.
A source close to the situation told The Daily Gazette that the cuts were mainly targeting chemical researchers, which is in line with GE’s renewed focus on tech. The layoffs are part of the General Electric digital transformation, where the company is trying to integrate the aforementioned innovations into its portfolio of services and goods. The move is a reaction to the declining sales and state of the stock over recent years.
Decline in Sales Leads to 107 Job Cuts at GE Aviation
Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Clearwater, Florida, were the targets of a combined 107 GE Aviation layoffs.
The cuts were a result of weak sales, a recurring trend for GE.
The total General Electric layoffs in 2017 amount to a fraction of the massive layoffs that the company has undergone over the past few years, and if the American behemoth can’t turn things around, more layoffs may be on the way.
“GE to Cut 575 Jobs at Century-Old Locomotive Plant,” Bloomberg, July 27, 2017.
“About 250 workers losing jobs at Fort Worth GE locomotive plant,” Star-Telegram, February 6, 2017.
“GE closing plant in Waukesha, moving 300-plus jobs to Canada, and workers aren’t happy,” Fox 6, June 13, 2017.
“GE Lighting to close Circleville plant, costing 148 jobs,” Columbus Dispatch, April 12, 2017.
“GE Global Research cutting jobs in Niskayuna,” The Daily Gazette, January 31, 2017.
“GE Aviation trims Grand Rapids workforce,” M Live, January 19, 2017.