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Eight major general contractors, all financially ailing, cut their workforces by a combined 2,898 during fiscal 2000 as part of their rehabilitation programs, according to their employment data released Friday.

The reductions are equivalent to the workforce at a midsize general contractor. Industry analysts said the contractors, which all received debt waivers from financial institutions, must immediately improve their earning capacities rather than relying on cutbacks in labor costs.

The workforce at Kumagai Gumi Co. was 7,506 on a consolidated basis as of March 31, down 15.1 percent from a year earlier, the company said. Its reconstruction plan targets shedding 2,000 workers over three years. The reduction has thus far enabled it to save 8.8 billion yen in labor costs, it said.

The number of employees at Aoki Corp. was up 3.6 percent to 7,277, helped by its favorable hotel business. On a parent-only basis, however, its workforce fell to 2,183 at the end of March 2000, down 62.2 percent from its peak, the company said.

As for Fujita Corp., its workforce fell 8.8 percent to 5,181 as it did not fill vacant positions brought about by mandatory retirements.

“As we now see labor shortages in some areas, we will not systematically reduce our workforce any further,” a Fujita official said.

The group workforce at Haseko Corp. was 3,793 as of March 31, down 4.9 percent and already below the labor reduction target of 4,000 specified in its rehabilitation plan.

Said a Haseko official: “We are planning to implement mid-career recruiting in order to promote our favorable condominium business.”

An executive at Tobishima Corp. said fears are growing that the severe restructuring at the company may depress workforce morale.

Tobishima reduced its workforce by 2.5 percent to 3,185; Mitsui Construction Co. 5.2 percent to 3,398; Hazama Corp. 12.1 percent to 4,126; and Sato Kogyo Co. 0.7 percent to 4,509.

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