Aerospace jobs seen down 4.5 pct in 2009 - study

WASHINGTON, Aug 24 (Reuters) - U.S. aerospace and defense firms are expected to cut about 30,000 jobs in 2009, or about 4.5 percent of the workforce, and layoffs are likely to continue in 2010, according to a study by Aviation Week and several industry associations.

The group’s annual workforce survey concluded that total job losses in the sector could reach 10 percent, but said that was still far below the 40 percent cut seen after the end of the Cold War, when defense spending was pared back sharply.

“The layoffs will almost certainly continue into 2010, (but) total job losses during this downturn might be limited to 10 percent of the aerospace and defense workforce -- far below the 40 percent eliminated in 1990-96 at the end of the Cold War,” Aviation Week said.

The report came a week after No. 1 U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp LMT.N said its space systems division plans to cut 800 jobs, or about 4.5 percent of the unit's workforce, in response to soft demand. Lockheed employs about 146,000 people worldwide.

Aviation Week produced the annual report with Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) and Hitachi Consulting.

The report showed the aerospace and defense companies were still hiring despite the downturn, and had 21,000 job openings as of April 1 when the data were collected, down from 32,000 a year ago.

However, a disconnect between the need for engineering skills, and hiring forecasts, which predict 38 percent to 80 percent declines in this area, could prolong the economic hangover, with growing numbers of retiring workers causing further workforce shortages.

Retirement eligibility was expected to increase from 13 percent this year to 18 percent in 2011 and 20 percent in 2013, compared with just 5.7 percent in 2008.

The study was based on responses from 43 aerospace and defense companies with a total of 520,000 employees, representing 82 percent of the industry’s total workforce of 630,000.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Richard Chang