U.S. airlines' work force on a full-time equivalent basis increased 2% in April compared with a year earlier, the largest monthly increase so far in a year of tepid employment growth, according to the data from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Airlines are enjoying a rebound in demand, but hiring had only increased slightly over the past four months as carriers cautiously added workers. Declines in air travel during the economic downturn took a heavy toll, forcing airlines to take steps to control costs, including layoffs.
Total full-time equivalent employees reached 383,698 in April, up slightly from March's 382,796, according to the department's Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Full-time equivalent calculations count two part-time employees as one full-time employee.
Network carriers' work force grew 1.8% as Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL) reported the largest increase with 4.5% more equivalent workers. Alaska Air Group's (ALK) Alaska Airlines posted the largest decline, a 3% drop in employment.
Discount carrier Virgin America's work force rose 21% on the year, while Spirit Airlines Inc.'s (SAVE) namesake carrier posted a 17% jump. Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV) had 3.1% more employees, while JetBlue Airways Corp. (JBLU) and AirTran Holdings Inc. (AAI) saw their work rolls rise 4.9% and 3.7% respectively. The overall work force of discount carriers was up 4% on the year.
Regional airlines employed 2.1% more workers.
-By Drew FitzGerald, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2909; Andrew.FitzGerald@dowjones.com