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Local FedEx employees working more during holidays

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Many of the 5,000 employees at the FedEx Express hub at Indianapolis International Airport are benefiting from the holiday shipping rush by working longer hours.

The Memphis-based company shipped 14.1 million packages on its peak day of the year, Dec. 14, beating projections by more than a million. It was the busiest day in FedEx history, topping the total of about 12 million packages shipped on its peak day last year. FedEx Corp. ships about 7.5 million packages on an average day.

Locally, the large part-time work force employed at the airport by FedEx negates the need to hire temporary help during the busiest time of the year, FedEx spokeswoman Sally Davenport said.

“We have such a large part-time workforce, that most employees enjoy getting the additional hours during the season,” she said.

The part-timers also can be grateful they avoided massive layoffs carried out by the company the past year. FedEx laid off workers, mostly at its Memphis operations, and cut wages for thousands of employees to cut costs.

FedEx's ground unit, however, added about 14,000 part-time and temporary workers during November and December.

The holiday shipping rush is expected to peak for rival UPS on Monday, when the world's largest shipping carrier projects it will deliver about 22 million small packages. For the entire holiday season, UPS plans to deliver roughly 400 million packages worldwide, up slightly from the 2008 holiday season.

UPS, based in Atlanta, hired about 50,000 seasonal workers to keep pace with the extra volume this holiday season, including about 700 extra staff at its Worldport facility in Louisville.

The hub employs about 10,000 workers who sort up to 350,000 packages hourly. On average, about 1.2 million packages pass through every day. Volume reaches 2.5 million packages at the holiday peak. UPS has other domestic air hubs in Philadelphia, Dallas, Hartford, Conn., Ontario, Calif., Rockford, Ill., and Columbia, S.C., plus a network of international hubs.

Peak projections from UPS and FedEx are closely watched because they tend to indicate how the broader economy is performing. Economists use FedEx and UPS volume to help track how much consumers are buying, because the companies transport so many retail goods.

The deep economic recession has taken a toll on the shipping giants.

FedEx recently reported lower second-quarter earnings and offered a cautious outlook for its third quarter, which ends in February. But the company thinks shipping volume could continue to pick up after that as the economy improves.

FedEx expressed some confidence the past week by announcing that it will resume merit salary increases in 2010, as well as a 50 percent resumption of the 401(k) company match for most U.S. employees.

UPS said it would reduce its 2009 capital expenditures to $1.7 billion, down $500 million from its initial budget. Its profits and sales were down in the third quarter.

 

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