Despite Record Earnings, Defense Firms Laid Off Nearly 1,500 Over the Past Year

A Falcon 9 SpaceX heavy rocket lifts off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.

AP Photo/John Raoux

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A Falcon 9 SpaceX heavy rocket lifts off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.

SpaceX’s announcement on Sunday punctuated a year of workforce reductions among prominent companies.

Despite high defense spending and stock prices, U.S. defense firms laid off more than 1,400 workers over the past year. On Sunday, Elon Musk’s SpaceX joined the list, announcing plans to cut 577 employees at its Hawthorne, California, headquarters amid a lighter rocket launch schedule in 2019. That’s about 10 percent of the firm’s 6,000 employees.

Layoffs commonly occur when companies have government contracts that end or when companies undergo mergers and acquisitions. Here’s some of the major defense companies that laid people off in the past year.

  • The U.S. arm of Italian defense firm Leonardo in November announced phased layoffs of about 90 people at an Elizabeth City, North Carolina, facility where it maintains U.S. Coast Guard C-130 aircraft.

Going back a bit further: In June 2017, Boeing Defense, Space & Security announced 50 defense executives would be cut as a major reorganization of the firm’s defense business. Boeing is expected to create hundreds of jobs following its $9.2 billion contract with the Air Force new pilot training jets in October.

Overall, these cuts are small compared to some historical cuts. Eight days after 9/11, for example, Boeing announced layoffs of up to 30,000 people.

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