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Dow Chemical cuts 900 jobs; shutters three plants

Company blames economic weakness in Europe for job losses and plant closures on three continents.


April 4, 2012
by The Canadian Press

MIDLAND, Mich.: Dow Chemical will cut 900 jobs and shutter plants on three continents because of weakness in Europe, which may soon tip back into recession—if it has not done so already.

Dow was ravaged during the global and economic crisis that struck four years ago, cutting more than 10,000 positions then. CEO Andrew Liveris has aggressively sought to keep the company, the nation’s largest chemical maker, agile despite its size.

“These actions, while difficult, are in full alignment with our commitment to continually manage our portfolio to adapt to changing and volatile economic conditions, as we are seeing particularly in Western Europe,” he said.

Europe released new employment figures Monday showing there are now more people unemployed than at any time since the euro was introduced in 1999.

Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics office, said unemployment rose to 10.8% in February. The number of unemployed totalled 17.1 million, nearly 1.5 million more unemployed than at the same time last year. Of the 17 countries in the eurozone, seven countries had unemployment rates of above 10%.

Dow’s products are used in nearly every sector in the economy and it is often the first to feel macroeconomic shifts. Early this week, Europe also released data indicating a bigger-than-anticipated downturn in manufacturing.

Financial information company, Markit, pointed particularly to deteriorating conditions in German and France. Spain’s unemployment level, the highest in the EU, hovers around 23%.

Dow is responding to those conditions, saying its latest maneuver will trim costs by about $250 million each year. In all, Dow will close four plants, idle a fifth, and consolidate other operations.

“Today’s announcement further demonstrates our resolve and ability to take swift, strategic cash flow interventions,” Liveris said.

The economic situation in Europe will affect Dow employees in the US, where the company employs about 25,000 people.

In addition to plants that will be shut down in Portugal, Hungary, and Brazil, as well as the idling of a plant in the Netherlands, Dow will close a factory in Charleston, Ill.

Fewer than 375 U.S. positions will be cuts. Dow has 52,000 employees worldwide.

©The Canadian Press