BRUSSELS (AP) -- European steel makers said Friday that one in six workers have lost their jobs or are working shorter hours as demand for steel has collapsed.
Eurofer -- a group representing ArcelorMittal SA, Corus and ThyssenKrupp AG -- said some 72,000 jobs or 17 percent of the European Union's 440,000-strong steel work force have been hit by the downturn.
It says it is asking EU governments to boost financing for steel customers -- car makers and the construction industry by giving more loans, guarantees and credit insurance.
The car industry claims that car manufacturers and suppliers need some €40 billion ($54 billion) in loans from governments because the financial crisis has sharply hiked the cost of borrowing while the recession has braked the sale of new cars.
Eurofer said steel demand has collapsed since the last three months of 2008, with average orders falling 60 percent. It says it expects consumption to fall by 30 percent in the first quarter of this year and to keep plunging in the second quarter.
Steel prices have halved, it says, and output is down 30 percent across the industry.