This year's job market is starting out on a dismal note. Fremont is being jolted with about 500 job cuts this month, primarily from a high-tech sector that has begun to erode.

Over a span of several weeks from New Year's Eve through mid-February, companies are cutting 534 jobs from their Fremont operations.

Most of the employment reductions are being undertaken by technology companies, according to official filings the corporations made with state and regional labor officials. Lam Research Corp., Western Digital Media, and Mattson Technology Corp. are among the tech firms that reported job cuts.

"We expect the technology industry in the Bay Area to start being affected by this downturn," said Jon Haveman, a partner with Beacon Economics, which tracks regional economies in California.

The economist believes the slump has ripped through every part of the economy and may just now be reaching the tech sector.

"The recession started with housing, then moved to consumers because of falling home prices and foreclosures, and as consumers cut back, businesses will contract," Haveman said. "The cutbacks by businesses mean they will buy fewer tech products."

Yet the recession has battered the entire East Bay, not just Fremont. During the one-year period that ended in November, the East Bay lost 22,500 jobs, according to the state's Employment Development Department.

Fremont-based Lam Research is expected to carry out the largest employment reductions, expected to eliminate 149 jobs in that city, the government filings by semiconductor equipment maker show. The Lam cuts in Fremont are scheduled for Jan. 20.


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"Business conditions in the semiconductor equipment sector have deteriorated further in recent weeks," Steven Newberry, Lam's president and chief executive, said in a prepared release on Dec. 19. "The weakness in memory pricing, the softening end-user demand environment, and restrictions in the capital markets have caused our customers to dramatically reduce their equipment purchases."

Lake Forest-based Western Digital Media, which makes hard drives, is cutting 107 jobs in Fremont. At the company's East Bay factory, the company operates a wafer fab for recording heads used in the drives, said Steve Shattuck, a Western Digital spokesman.

"In the current macro economic climate, we expect demand weakness to last well into the middle of the 2009 calendar year," Western Digital's president and CEO John Coyne said in a prepared release. "Consequently, we are taking additional steps to immediately reduce production capacity." Western Digital expects to eliminate the jobs on Jan. 31, although the Fremont factory will continue operating.

Fremont-based Mattson Technology, a semiconductor equipment maker, eliminated 30 jobs on the last day of 2008. In October, Mattson cut 80 jobs.

Some of the job cuts closed down entire factories. Isola USA Corp., a maker of materials for printed circuit boards used in computers and other systems, will cut 48 jobs, effective Feb. 18. Isola will shut its Fremont operation, the Arizona-based company said.

Some of the job cuts resulted from well-known economic problems.

Circuit City, a retail casualty, laid off its Fremont store employees on New Year's Eve as part of an big retrenchment by the struggling electronics merchant. This week, Central Chevrolet will close its doors in Fremont's Centerville district. And DHL intends to cease its package delivery operations in Fremont and other locations.

Reach George Avalos at 925-977-8477 or gavalos@bayareanewsgroup.com.

Fremont job cuts
These companies have scheduled employment reductions in Fremont between Dec. 31 and mid-February.
Company Industry Jobs affected

Lam Research Semiconductor equipment 149

Western Digital Media Hard disks 107

DHL Package delivery 75

Isola USA Tech materials 48

Applied Thin-Film Products Printed circuits 30

Central Chevrolet Retail (auto) 30

Mattson Technology Semiconductor equipment 30

Digital Fountain Software 20

Circuit City Retail (electronics) 20



Sources: State Employment Development Department, Alameda County Workforce Investment Board



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