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White City siding company lays off 35 workers

A CertainTeed plant in White City that makes siding for homes has laid off one full shift of 35 employees, a spokesman said.

Local employees were notified of the layoffs Thursday, said Mike Loughery, the company's director of corporate marketing and communications.

"It's because of the current state of the housing market," Loughery said from company headquarters in Valley Forge, Pa.

He noted that the company, which makes exterior and interior building products, including roofing, siding, windows, decking, foundations, pipe, insulation, wallboard and ceiling panels, has been hard hit by the downturn in housing construction and sales.

The laid-off workers will remain on the job until the end of the year, and CertainTeed plans to help connect them with job search and training opportunities, Loughery said.

"It's hard letting people go at the holidays," he said.

The plant will start the new year with a staff of just 28, he said. Its primary product is fiber-cement siding that looks like wood.

CertainTeed cut shifts and "significantly reduced production" during 2007 at many of its plants across the country, Loughery said. Its wallboard and insulation plants were hardest hit.

This year it has shuttered plants making dry wall, PVC pipe, and roofing, cut shifts at other plants and temporarily closed still others.

"It's not pretty," Loughery said.

Earlier this year, the White City plant had laid off 11 people, then called two of them back, he said.

He expects the White City plant to remain open with its reduced staff to serve current customers. 2009 looks to be another lean year in the building industry, but analysts are looking for a rebound in 2010, he said.

Jackson County recorded a 7.6 percent jobless rate in October, the highest mark for that month since the present unemployment tracking system was put in place in 1990. The national unemployment rate rose to a 15-year high of 6.7 percent in November.

CertainTeed is a subsidiary of Saint-Gobain, a French company that claims to be the world's largest building materials company. It has about 70 plants in the U.S.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail aburke@mailtribune.com.