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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Caterpillar announces second round of layoffs; Is Obama to blame?

Story Originally Appeared in National Monitor

Caterpillar Inc. has announced another round of layoffs that will likely impact nearly 300 workers in Decatur, Illinois.

In a statement released by the Peoria-based company, officials said they layoffs would target workers in its Decatur facility and would take place 60 days from now. The announcement brings the total number of layoffs to 760, and will reduce the number of total Caterpillar workers to just above 3,000 in Decatur. Company officials say a vast majority of the layoffs will affect workers in production and support/management roles, and the company said a large portion of layoffs comes in the form for production workers.

The announcement follows in the wake of unemployment figures released by the Department of Labor, which show the U.S. rate of unemployment falling to 7.5 percent. According to a statement released by Labor department officials, the U.S. economy added an estimated 165,000 workers to nonfarm payrolls in April. The figures represent the best numbers since December 2008, the height of the 2008 financial crisis.

The additional round of layoffs is reportedly driven by economic factors abroad. This year, Caterpillar expects a nearly 50 percent decline in mining equipment as the economy in Brazil and China remain flat. Caterpillar has already announced  a  number of programs aimed at reducing the number of workdays and briefly shutting down plants around the U.S.

The latest round of layoffs announced by Caterpillar is likely to add fuel to the fire in the debate over how to restore the nation’s economic growth. Top House Republicans and President Barack Obama remain at odds over the best way to continue to create jobs and lower the nation’s deficit. The president has repeatedly called on congressional leaders to fund programs designed to stimulate the economy, while Republicans have criticized the president’s spending programs. Speaking this week, President Obama, traveling to Mexico, called on congressional leaders to continue work to revamp the nation’s economic policies, saying economic growth is vital to both the U.S. economy and national security.