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US airlines drop 36,700 jobs after CARES Act ends

Airlines shed nearly 10% of their employees in October. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 9.1 percent fewer full-time equivalents  in mid-October 2020 than a month earlier, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Mid-October’s total number of FTEs (368,162) was down 36,707 from mid-September 2020 (404,869 FTEs) and 91,871 from mid-March 2020. October was the lowest FTE total for any month dating from January 1990. The previous low was April 2010 (376,663 FTEs).

Mid-October’s FTEs declined nearly 86,000, an 18.9 percent drop from mid-October 2019 (454,070 FTEs).

The numbers reflect that airlines that took CARES Act funding from the government were not allowed to terminate employees until the end of September, but began to shrink their workforce once the restrictions were lifted.

The four big network carriers showed the following employment trends:

  • 217,516 FTEs, 59.1 percent of total scheduled passenger airline FTEs
  • Down 24.7 percent  (71,264 FTEs) from October 2019 (288,780 FTEs)
  • Down 20.3 percent (55,271 FTEs) from October 2016 (272,787 FTEs)
  • Down 12.8 percent  (32,049 FTEs) from mid-September 2020 (249,565 FTEs)
  • Down 25.3 percent  (73,693 FTEs) from mid-March 2020 (291,209 FTEs)

Click here for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Eric Kulisch.


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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals and a Silver Medal from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government and trade coverage, and news analysis. He was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He won Environmental Journalist of the Year from the Seahorse Freight Association in 2014 and was the group's 2013 Supply Chain Journalist of the Year. In December 2022, Eric was voted runner up for Air Cargo Journalist by the Seahorse Freight Association. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. He has appeared on Marketplace, ABC News and National Public Radio to talk about logistics issues in the news. Eric is based in Vancouver, Washington. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]