Atlanta dodges brunt of UPS jobs cuts

Sandy Springs-based UPS said Friday it was cutting 1,800 management and administrative positions nationwide, using a mix of attrition, voluntary retirements and layoffs.

Atlanta will be spared most of the job losses as the global shipper shakes up its structure in the field.  A regional office with between 50 and 60 employees in Sandy Springs will be closed; the local employees could be potentially eligible for other jobs, early retirement or a severance package.

It is only the latest cost-saving measure instituted at UPS, which has shed jobs in the U.S. to weather the economic downturn and the reduction in global commerce.

On Friday, UPS said it expects stronger earnings because of cost cuts and operating results that have been better than expected in the U.S. and international markets. The freight carrier boosted fourth-quarter earnings guidance, saying it expected earnings to range between 73 cents to 75 cents a diluted share, up from a previously announced 58 cents to 65 cents.

In a move to streamline its domestic management structure, UPS said it would cut its United States regions from five to three. It would also slash its U.S. district regions from 46 to 20.

The company has more than 10,000 employees in and around Atlanta, but only the regional office in Sandy Springs will be closed. That southeastern regional headquarters controls a swath of territory from Maryland to Florida. That region will now be merged into a much larger eastern division, with responsibility for states from Maine to Florida.

"What we found in continuing studies and research is, we have the management and the technologies today so we can manage much larger geographic areas," said UPS spokesman Norman Black. UPS believes the consolidation of offices "will make us more effective in the future."

In the past year, as freight volume declined, UPS reduced the size of its workforce. It used attrition rather than layoffs, Black said. The company has used voluntary severance offers in the past, including at its Sandy Springs headquarters in 2006.

On Friday, UPS said it would offer voluntary separation packages to 1,100 of the 1,800 affected employees. Others would receive severance benefits based on their length of time with the company.

The job losses do not involve hourly employees, the package operations, or drivers, according to UPS.

UPS, or United Parcel Service Inc., is the world's largest package delivery company. The 103-year old company operates in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. It had $51.5 billion in sales in 2008, and boasts a worldwide payroll of about 408,000 employees.

UPS said Friday that it expects a gradual recovery from the economic downturn. That downturn has caused jittery shoppers to cut their spending, slicing into factory orders and global commerce. That dampened Big Brown's financial results last year.

In October, the company posted a more than 43 percent drop in third-quarter profit. At that time, executives said they were getting mixed signals about the key holiday season. The company said it would hire about 50,000 temporary employees -- fewer than normal -- for the holidays.