WEST FARGO, N.D. (AP) -- Bobcat Co. says it is extending a six-week shutdown of its two North Dakota plants by two weeks, citing the nation's economic slowdown.
The West Fargo-based construction equipment manufacturer laid off a total employees at its plants in Bismarck and Gwinner in mid-December. The plants have about 2,000 employees combined. They were due back to work Feb. 2.
In a statement Thursday, Bobcat said the layoffs have been extended until Feb. 16.
The company statement said the extended layoffs are "a result of continued economic conditions, specifically the downturn in the housing market and crisis in the financial markets."
Travis Swanson, the vice president of United Steelworkers Local 560 in Gwinner, said employees got the word Thursday morning.
"About 8:30 this morning, the company started notifying the membership," he said. The extended layoffs are "due to a lack of orders just as it was before," he said. "Things aren't picking up as fast as we anticipated."
Bobcat Americas president Rich Goldsbury said in the statement that the extended shutdown will allow Bobcat dealers a chance to move their current inventory before more machines make their way into the market.
Jeremy Bauer, a Bobcat worker who is president of the United Steelworkers Local 566 in Bismarck, said the news was not a total shock.
"I guess I've been expecting the worst as opposed to waiting for good news," he said.
Bobcat Co., is owned by South Korea-based Doosan Infracore International. Its plants in Gwinner and Bismarck make skid-steer loaders, mini track loaders and Toolcat utility work machines.
A statement from Gov. John Hoeven said Goldsbury made it clear that work would resume and that "Bobcat does not anticipate any permanent layoffs in the workforce."
Hoeven said employees can extend unemployment benefits claims via the Internet and the state's Job Service agency will work with them.
Bauer said the economy is the key.
"You know, it's even out of their (Bobcat) control. Until they start selling machines, we're going to be hurting," he said.
"We're getting by, you know, we're doing our thing, getting unemployment ... they want us back," Bauer said. "I think they are just trying to clear out some of the yard a little bit with some of the excess inventory we had going into this."