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Winnebago Industries’ employment in Iowa has shrunk almost 15% – about 620 workers – in the past year as demand has fallen for motorhomes, according to the Des Moines Register.
Winnebago, based in Forest City, had record sales in 2004, but business slowed in 2005 as fuel prices and interest rates rose while consumer confidence in the economy wavered. Industrywide sales and shipments are also down from last year.
The employment cuts have come through attrition and through layoffs of about 170 workers last month – the first Winnebago layoffs in at least 10 years.
Winnebago’s main factory is in Forest City, but the company also has plants in Charles City, Hampton and Lorimor.
The workforce was about 4,220 in 2004. Now, after the layoffs, the figure is about 3,600, said Kelli Harms, a company spokeswoman.
The layoffs were necessary to adjust production to market demand, Harms said. She added that the company is still on track to have the second-best year in its 48-year history.
Most of the layoffs, about 130, were in Forest City. Beth Bilyeu-Hesse, executive director of Forest City Economic Development, said the job losses haven’t hurt the local economy so far.
Harms said workers could be called back if sales pick up.
Craig Kennison, an analyst with Robert W. Baird & Co. in Milwaukee, expects industry sales in 2006 to be about the same as in 2005, reflecting higher interest rates and fuel costs and lower levels of consumer confidence in the economy.
The industry is expected to be helped by the need for temporary housing for evacuees forced from their homes by Hurricane Katrina. Kennison, however, said that towable trailers are likely to see the biggest boost from Katrina.