Though Washington state lost just over 1,000 Boeing jobs last year, the jet manufacturer after three years of crisis may have hit bottom. It’s hiring again.
Boeing has lined up 737 MAXs painted in the livery of Chinese airlines at Boeing Field in anticipation of resuming deliveries there. And the production rate on the MAX assembly line in Renton is set to increase, boding well for Machinists union jobs.
Meanwhile, Monday’s launch of a new airplane, the 777-8F cargo plane that must be designed and certified in the next five years, bodes well for engineering jobs.
Boeing spokesperson Jessica Kowal said Tuesday the company has advertised about 5,000 job openings in the state.
“There’s a huge effort to hire people,” she said.
“Boeing’s Washington state employment has stabilized and remains our largest workforce anywhere in the world,” Kowal added.
Bill Dugovich, spokesperson for the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, or SPEEA, said Boeing’s white-collar union anticipates “a steady uptick but not a rush” in hiring of engineers and technical staff.
“We’re hopeful we hit the bottom a while ago and are on the upswing,” Dugovich said. “Particularly with the announcement of the new freighter, we’re hoping things turn around.”
Connie Kelliher, spokesperson for the blue-collar International Association of Machinists, said Boeing is holding new hire orientation events for mechanics every Friday, with nearly 80 people at last week’s session, many of them recalled from layoff, and close to 60 more set to attend Friday.
Those signs of life follow more than two years of job cuts as Boeing plumbed the bottom of the downturn in its business.
Starting in 2019, Boeing management slashed jobs at the commercial airplane unit in response to successive crises: the MAX crashes and the prolonged grounding of that jet; the historic pandemic aviation downturn; and the continuing halt in 787 deliveries due to manufacturing quality issues.
Two years ago, Boeing employed nearly 72,000 people in the state. Now it’s less than 56,000.
In 2020, Boeing cut 20,000 jobs companywide, almost 15,000 of those in Washington state.
Boeing’s just-released annual employment figures show that in 2021, Boeing added back 568 jobs companywide, though it shed another 1,085 jobs in Washington state.
Boeing cut a lot of Washington jobs in the first six months of 2021, then started hiring back mechanics here as MAX production picked up.
Kelliher said the Machinists union started the year with 31,100 members at Boeing, hit a low point in May of 23,500, and then recovered in the months that followed to end the year with just over 24,800 members.
In contrast, Dugovich said SPEEA’s membership, which had plummeted by nearly 2,900 in 2020, was reduced by less than 200 last year. SPEEA now has just over 14,100 members.
The new hires didn’t compensate for the losses early in 2021, bringing Boeing employment in this state down to 55,823 at year-end.
Across the Boeing enterprise, some regions lost jobs in 2021 while others gained.
Washington state lost more jobs than any other state, though it suffered just a 2% cut this time versus a 21% cut in 2020.
Boeing South Carolina shed 185 jobs last year, just over 3% of its workforce. And Missouri, home to Boeing’s military jet fighter plants, shed 553 jobs, or 3.6% of its workforce.
Texas, where Boeing is working on two new Air Force One jets in San Antonio and where the aftermarket services division is headquartered near Dallas, gained 715 jobs.
California, home to Boeing space facilities and the base for its airline support unit, added 435 jobs.
The largest job growth was not in any of the U.S. states where Boeing has large manufacturing facilities: 1,400 jobs were added in a category listed as “Other,” which includes overseas locations such as Russia and India.
In contrast to the MAX production ramp-up in Renton, the prospect at Boeing’s widebody jet plant in Everett is much more muted.
Production of the 747 jumbo jet there, already at a snail’s pace, will stop completely in October.
Assembly of the 787 Dreamliner was transferred to South Carolina. There is work in Everett now repairing the quality defects on the previously built 787s, but once those go out the door that line is done.
The 767 assembly line continues at a steady but slow pace, building freighters and Air Force tankers at a rate of three per month.
One recent brighter note is that the 777 assembly line, which had been slowed to two jets per month, is buoyed by freighter orders, and so it’s set to increase this year to three jets per month.
The good news for Washington state is that at least there should be no more cuts.
In a statement, Boeing said, “We are actively hiring in engineering and manufacturing and are holding several recruiting events in the near future.”