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Newport News Lays Off Employees for the First Time in Five Years 

Newport News Shipbuilding layoffs
View of the shipyard from the Kennedy - Photo by Matt Hildreth/courtesy of HHI

Published Mar 1, 2021 2:28 PM by The Maritime Executive

Newport News Shipbuilding, one of the U.S.’s oldest shipbuilders today focused on the U.S. Navy, announced that it is laying off 314 salaried employees as well as taking other steps to control costs. While the number of employees impacted is only a small percentage of the total workforce, it marked the first time in five years the shipbuilder has taken steps to reduce its workforce.

“Today is a tough day as we say goodbye to 314 fellow shipbuilders as part of a layoff impacting our salaried workforce. This is the first workforce reduction we’ve experienced in five years and comes after a thorough assessment of our business,” write the shipyard’s president Jennifer Boykin in a social media posting. 

The shipyard which calls itself “the largest industrial employer in Virginia,” recently said it had a total workforce of more than 26,000 people. It is also the largest component of its parent company Huntington Ingalls Industries which reports it has a total worldwide workforce of more than 42,000 people. 

They did not specify which areas of the operations were impacted by the layoffs. Also, as part of the recent business analysis, the shipyard reported that an additional 119 managers were being demoted within the operation. They said this step was taken to “reshape production and support ratios.”

The news of the layoffs came as the shipyard enters the next phase of the commissioning of the nuclear aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy, the second ship in the U.S. Navy’s new Ford class carriers. In November 2020, HII reported that it had agreed to a contract with the U.S. Navy for a single-phase commissioning program for the Kennedy. Launched in December 2019, they reported the Kennedy was approximately 76 percent complete. The ship is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy in 2024.

The first ship of the class, the Gerald R. Ford was delivered to the Navy in May 2017 and the U.S. Navy is continuing to conduct testing and training programs as it completes the commissioning of the carrier. Newport News also was awarded in January 2019 a navy contract to build two additional carriers of the class. The USS Enterprise is scheduled to be delivered in 2028 and the fourth carrier in 2032.

“It is important to stress that our future remains strong even in the midst of today’s news,” said Boykin. “We will continue hiring for specific, critical positions. While these are very difficult decisions, they are necessary cost controls to help ensure the future of our shipyard and the affordability of the ships we build.”

The 135-year-old shipyard is currently the U.S.’s sole designer, builder, and refueler of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and one of only two shipyards in the U.S. capable of designing and building nuclear-powered submarines.