PBS Coals announced a third round of layoffs Friday that left 134 people without jobs.
The company furloughed 363 workers last year.
Company general counsel Lori Mason said the decision was difficult but necessary to keep the company financially healthy. The layoffs included miners as well as office staff.
“They are people from all different parts of the company,” she said. “Management, operations, hourly people and salary people.”
Mason said the market for international and domestic coal has not improved since the last round of layoffs in December.
“Management delays these decisions for as long as possible,” she said. “We need to do this to remain financially healthy so we can meet demands when the market improves.”
Mason said the price of metallurgical coal, which is used in steel production, needs to rise for the company to begin adding workers.
“We have done this to remain in a position to respond to the coal market when it does rebound,” she said. “We appreciate the county’s continued support of our company.”
Mason said she did not have numbers outlining the decrease in production at the mines. She said the layoffs will not idle any mines and construction on the A Seam mine in Brothersvalley and Black townships will continue.
In December 138 employees from various sites lost their jobs. In addition to the employees, the Hart Mine in Stonycreek Township and Roytown Mine in Lincoln Township were idled. In July 225 employees lost their jobs and five mines were idled.
After Friday’s layoffs there are 552 employees at PBS — a nearly 50 percent reduction in its workforce over 2011, when PBS was one of the largest employers in Somerset County with 1,000 employees.
“Right now we are hopeful that the market will improve in 2013, but we have no firm evidence that it will happen,” she said.
In 2012 there were 95 mass layoffs in mining, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. There have been 23 mass layoffs thus far in 2013. A mass layoff involves more than 50 employees. There were 50 in 2011 and 73 in 2010.
Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk said the layoffs will have an impact on the local economy.
“People will be buying necessities,” he said. “Mostly buying needs, not wants. They won’t be going on vacations and the extra things people like to do in the summertime.”
Vatavuk said there is little that can be done to help coal mines because the business is affected by the world market for coal.
The Friedens company is owned by Severstal Resources of Russia.