UPS to cut 12,000 jobs as shipping volume falls and labor costs rise


UPS plans to cut 12,000 jobs as demand for package delivery stagnates, executives said Tuesday.

The layoffs will eliminate around 2.4 percent of UPS’s global workforce of roughly 495,000, with about 75 percent of the job reductions coming in the first half of 2024. Executives said they don’t expect those jobs to return.

“It’s a change in the way we work,” Chief Financial Officer Brian Newman said Tuesday during a conference call with analysts. “So as volume returns to the system, we don’t expect these jobs to come back. It’s changing the effective way we operate.”

UPS saw its fortunes surge early in the pandemic as online shopping became a more central part of people’s lives, but package volume has decreased since then. The company on Tuesday said package volume fell 7.4 percent in the fourth quarter, while revenue declined 7.8 percent year-over-year.

CEO Carol Tomé said in a statement that 2023 “was a unique and difficult year and through it all we remained focused on controlling what we could control, stayed on strategy and strengthened our foundation for future growth.”

UPS is still weathering the transition out of the pandemic retail economy of 2020 and 2021, said Jim O’Rourke, a business professor at the University of Notre Dame.

“During the pandemic, for a lot of people online shopping was the only way that they could get the things they needed,” he said. “Now you can get in the car, on the bus, you can go shopping yourself, and so you don’t have the demand for packages shipped.”

While the United States boasted a resilient consumer economy, Europe saw problems with industrial manufacturing that eventually led to a slowdown in demand for package deliveries, Tomé said.

Several private carriers struggled in 2023. DHL Group logged a 19.3 percent revenue decline in its most recently reported quarter. FedEx’s revenue also fell, and CEO Raj Subramaniam pointed to an “uncertain demand environment.”

The U.S. Postal Service, in a recent report to Congress, reported that volume had declined 8.9 percent for the year, with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy pointing to the changes wrought by digital communication and online shopping. “Significant economic and social changes have severely impacted the business model of the Postal Service and it has been difficult to recover,” DeJoy wrote.

UPS executives also cited higher labor costs. UPS last summer reached a deal with the Teamsters that included raises of up to 55 percent over five years for certain workers. The company has already reduced its head count by about 45,000 since its pandemic peak, largely through attrition and reduced hours, Tomé said on Tuesday’s call.

The company’s sales outlook for 2024 also disappointed investors. The company projected revenue between $92 billion and $94.5 billion, an increase of 1 percent to 3.8 percent, but analysts had expected the outlook to be higher, according to news reports referencing financial data provider Refinitiv. The U.S. small-package market is expected to grow less than 1 percent in 2024, according to UPS.

UPS stock fell more than 8 percent Tuesday.

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