DECATUR — Another round of layoffs at the Caterpillar Inc. facility in Decatur were set Friday to take effect in July.
The Peoria-based company said 300 employees will be laid off in 60 days. The announcement brings the total number of Decatur workers to be idled in the next two months to 760. Before the reductions started, Caterpillar employed about 4,000 people in Decatur.
Caterpillar spokeswoman Barbara Cox said the actions are necessary to bring production in line with demand.
“Products built in Decatur are used in the mining industry, which has witnessed weaker market conditions when compared to last year,” Cox said. “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.”
The affected employees work in production and support/management roles, with Caterpillar saying the majority are from the production work force.
Although unemployment rates in other areas of the country have shown recent signs of improving, state Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, said that has not been the case locally. Mitchell said the announcement “is terrible news for Decatur.”
“Unfortunately, the improvement in the economy has bypassed Illinois and Macon County,” Mitchell said. “While I understand Caterpillar’s decision was based largely on a weakening mining industry, we have to do better. More must be done to improve our economy locally and get Illinois working again.”
The Decatur-area unemployment rate has been among the highest in the state. It was 11.8 percent in March, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
Conditions in the mining industry could remain volatile in the near future, said Craig Coil, president of the Economic Development Corporation of Decatur and Macon County.
“We hope this is the end of it,” Coil said. “It’s all up in the air right now. Caterpillar is doing everything it can to keep the work force in place.”
As with its announcement in April, Caterpillar said it plans to help the affected employees. Coil said groups such as Workforce Investment Solutions are available to assist those looking for new jobs.
“We know this is difficult for our employees and their families, and the company will do what it can to ensure impacted employees have support during this time,” Cox said.
Jobs are available elsewhere for qualified workers, but Coil said likely not in the kind of numbers that Caterpillar employs.
Decatur isn’t the only Caterpillar facility facing changes and cuts. Layoffs in Peoria and Joliet recently were announced.
Temporary layoffs are being implemented in the Milwaukee area, and a plant in South Carolina will be closed, leaving 280 employees out of work.