In 2018, Boeing added almost 4,000 jobs in Washington state and nearly 9,000 companywide, the aerospace giant's first employment increase in six years.

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Boeing last year added almost 4,000 jobs in Washington state and nearly 9,000 companywide, the aerospace giant’s first employment increase in six years.

Those numbers represent the net gains after retirements and other departures. All told, Boeing hired 8,500 workers last year in Washington state, and made about 34,000 hires companywide.

The company released its annual employment figures Thursday. The data shows Boeing has 69,813 employees in the state, up 3,984 from a year ago.

Companywide, Boeing has 153,027 employees, up about 10,900 from a year ago. (The increase is not precise because Boeing updated the figure only in February 2019 to include about 800 employees who joined the company with the acquisition of Aurora Flight Sciences in November 2017.)

About 2,000 of the additional employees for 2018 joined the payroll in October when Boeing completed the acquisition of Miami-based airplane-parts distributor KLX Aerospace .

This uptick follows five straight years of employment declines. In Washington state, Boeing shed more than 6,000 jobs in 2017 and more than 7,300 in 2016.

Employment peaked most recently in the fall of 2012, when Boeing had 87,023 employees in Washington state. Even with the 2018 gain, Boeing employs about 17,200 fewer people in the state than it did then.

Companywide, the pattern is similar, though the majority of the job losses over the past five years happened in Washington state.

In the fall of 2012, Boeing employed a total of 175,742 people worldwide. Despite the 2018 gain, its total employment is down more than 25,500 from that peak.

The employment prospects this year look good. Boeing plans to significantly increase production of the 737 in Renton and the 787 in Everett. And manufacturing work on the new 777X in Everett will accelerate as that plane enters flight test ahead of entry into service next year.

And if, as expected, Boeing announces a go-ahead on a new airplane that will become the 797, that will trigger substantial hiring of engineers over the next few years, with Washington state likely to get the largest jobs boost from that move.

However, the impact of the 797 decision on production jobs depends on where Boeing chooses to build it. It’s not certain to be here.

And wherever it’s assembled, the 797 production line is expected to be the most highly automated in Boeing’s history, taking to the next level the automation Boeing has deployed for the 737 MAX and the 777X.

Because of the company’s increased use of automation, it’s unlikely Boeing will surpass the 2012 employment peak in the years ahead, except through acquisition of other companies.

For example, if Boeing as expected completes this year the acquisition of the commercial operations of Brazilian jetmaker Embraer, that will likely add at least 10,000 workers to its payroll.

Note: The company-wide employment figure in this story was updated on Feb. 8, 2019, to reflect a correction Boeing issued that day. The previous figure provided by the company had left out about 2,800 employees, about 2,000 who joined Boeing with the acquisition of KLX Aerospace in 2018 and another 800 who joined Boeing with the acquisition of Aurora Flight Sciences in 2017. The figures for Washington state were unaffected by the change.

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