BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – U.S. Steel's Fairfield Works has temporarily laid off about a third of its workers, or 760 employees, in recent weeks citing declining orders.
The steelmaker idled nearly 420 of its 2,300 workers in the last week alone, said Ernie Glenn, spokesman for parent company USX Corp. in Birmingham.
"These are all temporary layoffs, and we continue to monitor our business picture on a week-to-week basis," Glenn said.
Fred Sanders, president of United Steel Workers Local 1013 at the plant, is hoping up to 300 of the workers could return next week for the completion of a blast furnace maintenance project.
"A lot of us should be able to go back to work Sunday or Monday," Sanders said. "We will have to wait and see."
It's not as clear when the more than 400 sent home from Fairfield Works' tubular mill will return to their jobs.
U.S. Steel said Thursday it expected a bleak fourth quarter, with shipments dropping as much as 15 percent from the previous quarter and the slowdown in orders raising production costs.
The company said its plants are operating at 66 percent of their capacity, down from 83 percent in the previous quarter.
It said demand for tubular steel, used in the pipes made at Fairfield Works, had fallen sharply.
The company did not announce the layoffs, which came to light in comments state Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, to the Legislature.
Domestic steelmakers say the industry's woes go beyond the nation's economic slump. They also blame "dumping" by some foreign countries who are selling steel priced below cost to U.S. customers.
Fairfield Mayor Larry Langford said the latest round of layoffs won't be as devastating to Fairfield as they once would have.
"It won't hurt the city as much as it would have 15 years ago or 25 years ago," Langford said. "We have diversified our economy, but it will still have an impact."
"It always hurts to see people out of work, but it seems to hurt more during the holidays," he said.