American Cast Iron Pipe (ACIPCO) said it is cutting 58 hourly jobs, as the faltering national economy clodhops its way into Birmingham.
ACIPCO said the affected employees were notified last week, and will be eliminated from the payroll Nov. 10. The job cuts amount to 2.5 percent of the workforce, which will consist of 2,200 employees after the reductions.
"The demand for ductile iron pipe and fittings is closely tied to the housing market," ACIPCO said in a statement. "As the demand for the construction of new homes has declined, so has the demand for certain ACIPCO products. This trend is expected to continue into next year."
U.S. sales of new homes unexpectedly rose 2.7 percent in September from August but were down 33 percent from a year earlier. A prolonged housing slump might be dire for Birmingham - home to ACIPCO, U.S. Pipe & Foundry, and McWane Pipe, the three largest ductile-iron pipe makers in the country.
Lower demand for the pipes and fittings that connect new homes to water and sewer systems means reduced production at the foundries, which is often followed by jettisoned workers. The big three pipe makers employ almost 3,000 workers in Birmingham - ACIPCO's 2,200, 450 at McWane, and 300 at U.S. Pipe.
ACIPCO's last job reductions were in 1997, when 17 hourly workers were let go. Attempts to reach U.S. Pipe about its workforce were unsuccessful. McWane last week released 10 salaried employees, spokeswoman Mickie Coggin said.
"Fortunately, at this time, we are not making any hourly reductions and are simply handling those through normal attrition," Coggin said.
U.S. Pipe came first, forming in 1899 as Birmingham's ductile-iron industry began to take off because of the area's concentrations of coal, iron ore and limestone. Then came ACIPCO in 1905. McWane was next, formed in 1921 by a former ACIPCO executive.
McWane is owned by the founding family and ACIPCO by employees, so financial results aren't publicly reported. U.S. Pipe is part of publicly traded Mueller Water Products, based in Atlanta, and had annual revenue of $537 million in fiscal 2007.