Health Care Stays Healthy, 2008 Hurts Other Industries

by Jamie Walden  on Monday, Mar. 2, 2009 12:00 am  

Tyson Foods Inc. held the No. 3 spot, growing 7.8 percent to 24,005 employees. The majority of the increase came from Tyson adding chicken de-boning operations at several plants, the company said.

Meanwhile, Pilgrim's Pride Corp., another poultry processing company, shed more than 30 percent of its staff in 2008. In July, the company, based in Pittsburg, Texas, shut down the "tray-pack chicken business" at its facility in El Dorado, consolidating the operation to other existing locations. The move resulted in the elimination of 600 of the 1,215 jobs at the location.

One month later, Pilgrim's idled its chicken processing plant in Clinton, which put 600 more Arkansans out of work. The layoffs knocked Pilgrim's from its No. 9 spot on last years list down to No. 19.

O.K. Industries Inc. of Fort Smith underwent a restructuring that included automating some of its processes, including meat processing and de-boning. The restructuring, which also included some reductions across the board, resulted in 400 lost jobs.

In addition to Tyson's growth, however, the poultry industry got a boost when Simmons Foods Inc. of Siloam Springs bought Peterson Farms' broiler operations in Decatur in July. The acquisition added more than 700 employees to Simmons, bumping it to No. 15 on this years list – a sizable leap from its spot last year as No. 24.

Hospitals See Growth

Almost all the hospitals on this year's list experienced year-over-year growth, particularly Sisters of Mercy Health System of Chesterfield, Mo.

The hospital system acquired an existing health clinic in Hot Springs, which contributed to its nearly 12 percent growth to 5,493 employees in Arkansas.

Arkansas Children's Hospital of Little Rock grew by about 300 employees, as did Sparks Health System of Fort Smith.

Last but not least, newcomers to the list this year include Jefferson Regional Medical Center of Pine Bluff, AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

Verizon officially completed its acquisition of Alltel in January of this year. Verizon now employs about 2,900 in Arkansas, exactly 200 more than its competitor AT&T.



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