ST. PAUL -- The big blow at Northwest Airlines, which will cut 4,500 jobs in Minnesota and reduce service by 20 percent, could ensnare other companies and people whose jobs and profits are closely linked to the carrier.
Airport-related vendors, like meal companies and taxi drivers, will see business drop off as flights are cut. Nearby restaurants and stores where laid-off Northwest employees went with their paychecks might feel a pinch, too.
One economist predicts that every layoff at Northwest will be accompanied by at least one job loss elsewhere. But until they see who is cut and from which jobs, several experts said it will be tough to gauge the economic fallout from Friday's announcement.
About 30,000 people, including Northwest employees, worked at the airport before the cuts, according to the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which has a staff of 520. MAC isn't planning any layoffs right now, but a spokesman said the commission is reviewing its budget.
Northwest has its corporate headquarters in Eagan, a reservation center in Chisholm and a maintenance base in Duluth. The layoffs will affect about 20 percent of the company's Minnesota-based workforce, which had been 21,000 people.
"This is not going to bring Minnesota's economy to its knees," said state economist Tom Stinson. "But you have to be concerned when a firm lays off 4,500 workers."
Stinson said the layoff could lead nearly as many employees to file initial unemployment claims in one fell swoop as the state usually sees in a week from all businesses.
Eagan Mayor Patricia Awada expects an impact from the cuts by the city's third-largest employer. About 2,500 Northwest employees work in Eagan, mainly at the corporate headquarters. As many as 2,000 call the city home.
"There are Northwest Airlines employees who live on every block in this city," Awada said.
What's more, pilots come there for training, often staying at Eagan hotels and eating in the city's restaurants.
"Obviously they won't be training a lot of new pilots since they're laying off hundreds," Awada said.
Heidi Bardwell, marketing director at the Eagan YMCA, said many Northwest workers hold memberships, are married to club employees or use its child-care services. She's unsure what to expect.
"People like to continue their YMCA membership as a stress relief," she said, adding, "Some probably will not be able to afford it."
Bardwell said the YMCA offers financial breaks in some instances.
Basim Wisner, executive vice president and general manager of Airport Taxi and Town Taxi, is projecting 20 to 30 percent less business for the next several months.
"Right now we're just controlling our expenses the best we can do. We're watching every penny we spend. I hope we don't have to go through any reduction in employees here," Wisner said.
He has 35 people on staff and more than 250 drivers have contracts to operate cabs for his company. Some have seen their take-home pay plummet to as little as $60 for a week's work, Wisner said.
For the cab companies and other industries, emptier planes pose more of a problem than the Northwest layoffs.
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