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CAT Offering Early Retirement Packages

Caterpillar offering voluntary early retirement packages to about 2,000 production workers as it expects lower demand for heavy equipment amid the global slowdown.

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) -- Caterpillar Inc. said Wednesday it is offering voluntary early retirement packages to about 2,000 production workers, following a string of layoffs at the heavy equipment maker, as it struggles with lower demand amid the global economic downturn.

The maker of mining and construction machinery said the latest package, details of which were not disclosed publicly, is being offered to workers in Illinois, Colorado, Tennessee and Pennsylvania.

The plan follows previously announced reductions, and more voluntary and involuntary cuts may be needed, the company said.

Caterpillar, which said eligibility for the program is based on age and years of service, cited "expectations of significant declines in all geographic regions in most industries due to difficulties in the global economy."

On Jan. 26, Caterpillar reported a lower-than-expected profit in the fourth quarter and reduced its 2009 outlook. At the time, the company disclosed nearly 20,000 job cuts, most of which had already been made.

Four days later Caterpillar announced the layoffs of 2,100 production workers plus 416 support and management personnel at plants in Aurora, Decatur and East Peoria, Ill.

Shares rose 55 cents to $31.49 in midday trading.

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