The number of workers employed full-time by U.S. air carriers dropped 2 percent to 381,639 from November 2011 to November 2012, the Department of Transportation said Tuesday, adding to a recent downward trend. Though the overall number of employees recently saw 22 months of growth, the movement was subtle and began to reverse in late 2012. The DOT noted mergers and bankruptcy among the factors affecting the largest carriers. Employment figures rose sharply from about 1997 to 2000, peaking above 500,000, and have been mostly in decline since. The airlines with the most employees as of November were United, Delta and American. Together they represent more than half of all employees that either work full-time for a carrier or are deemed "full-time-equivalent" by the agency. The DOT's numbers are only current through November 2012, but it has now marked several months of decreases in employees.
Nearly 22 months of year-over-year increases began in November 2010. That has been followed by three months of decreases. Generally, over the same period the low-cost carriers have been posting increases, but not enough to offset the larger industry's downward trend over the long term since 2000. Only two major airlines saw growth when compared with their figures last November. United and Continental merged in 2010 and posted a 1.7 percent increase in employees from November 2011 to November 2012, according to the agency. Alaska Airlines managed a 3 percent increase. The agency identified low-cost carriers Allegiant, Virgin, Spirit, JetBlue, Frontier and now-merged Southwest and AirTran. As a group, low-cost carriers saw very slight increases year over year. The top five majors include United, Delta, American, Southwest and US Airways. Click here for the full report.