2009-02-12 / Features

U.S. Steel Says About 500 Employees Opt To Retire Early

PITTSBURGH (AP) - United States Steel Corp., the largest U.S.-based steel producer, said Friday about 500 employees have agreed to retire early as part of a plan to slash costs as the global economic downturn hurts demand for the metal.

The company said the voluntary retirement of the nonunion workers, including some executives, would occur at its Pittsburgh headquarters and plants across the country starting in February.

U.S. Steel expects to incur a related pretax charge of about $70 million in the first quarter but save roughly $50 million annually as a result of the restructuring.

Steel makers have been grappling with sharply lower demand as the global economic slowdown hurts key customers in the automotive, construction and industrial equipment sectors. Steel prices, which reached all-time highs last year, and production levels have dropped significantly in recent months.

Executives who have opted for the early retirement program are slated to leave around April 1. Individual names will be announced later.

John Armstrong, a spokesman for the company, said the employees already were eligible to retire and were offered enhanced retirement packages.

Last week, U.S. Steel reported substantially higher fourthquarter earnings as strong pipe sales and an acquisition-related gain boosted results, but it forecast an operating loss in the current quarter due to the weakening world economy.

In late 2008, U.S. Steel announced it was laying off 675 workers in North America and idling three plants temporarily, affecting about 3,500 workers.

Shares of U.S. Steel climbed $3.03, or 9.6 percent, to close the regular session at $34.46.

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