The head of heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar said his company is still hiring in August as demand continues to grow for its product line, although he worries about the economic outlook.
“We’re still pretty optimistic” about the equipment marketplace and Caterpillar’s potential to have a record year, said Doug Oberhelman, chairman and CEO.
He told CNBC that Caterpillar has hired more than 1,000 new U.S. workers since the start of July, with 300 of them in the first 11 days of August.
Despite extreme financial market volatility in recent weeks, he said the response from Caterpillar’s customers is “steady as she goes, and in fact the wind is blowing fairly well at our backs.”
Caterpillar is a major exporter besides supplying the U.S. market with mining and construction vehicles and other equipment. It also owns Electro-Motive Diesel, a major North American manufacturer of freight locomotives.
So it is watching the economy here and abroad. The market turmoil has been linked both to bond and currency concerns in Europe and to a U.S. debt downgrade after policymakers struggled to raise the debt ceiling to avoid a U.S. default.
“We’re worried about the macroeconomic environment, we all should be,” Oberhelman said, “But so far so good, even after the debacle we all witnessed in Washington.”
He said customers are also worried about the economy, and many still have trouble getting bank credit for construction projects. But for now “our business is picking up,” both for exports and in the U.S.
“We’ve seen such an inventory depletion in construction equipment across the country (that) we’re seeing some build-back” that translates immediately into new activity for its factories, Oberhelman said.
Peoria, Ill.-based Caterpillar is about to open a new factory in North Carolina, and last week said it will expand a plant in North Dakota. Besides hiring for those projects, he said the company’s U.S. distributors are hiring and can’t find enough repair technicians to service equipment that breaks down in the field.
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