DALLAS (AP) -- Fewer people are working for U.S. airlines than a year ago, with the biggest declines at American Airlines — which is cutting jobs as it goes through bankruptcy — and Delta.
The government says American has the equivalent of 5,500 fewer full-time workers than a year ago.
The U.S. Transportation Department said Thursday that in March, passenger airlines employed the equivalent of 380,325 full-time workers, down 2.7 percent from a year earlier. It was the seventh straight month of year-to-year decline.
Most big airlines have returned to profitability thanks to cost-cutting, higher fares and extra fees. But they remain wary of growing too quickly in a lackluster economy. Airline revenue trends sagged in April, although industry executives have sounded more upbeat about the summer travel season.
United Airlines, including what used to be Continental, had 82,835 employees, the most in the industry and up 0.9 percent from March 2012, according to government figures. United Continental Holdings Inc. is the world's biggest airline by passenger miles.
The second-biggest, Delta Air Lines Inc., had 73,395 jobs, a decrease of 4.1 percent, or about 3,130 jobs.
American had the equivalent of 59,006 full-time workers, down 9.9 percent from March 2012. The airline has 15.9 percent fewer workers than it did in 2009, easily the largest decline among major U.S. carriers in that period.
American and parent AMR Corp. filed for bankruptcy protection in November 2011. The airline eliminated thousands of jobs among ground workers, and more than 2,000 flight attendants took early retirement last year. AMR reported in a bankruptcy court filing Wednesday that its labor costs dropped 18 percent in April compared with April 2012 although it still lost $105 million in the month.
"Job reductions are an unfortunate part of restructuring, but we believe American is well on the way to being a stronger, more competitive airline," said company spokesman Mike Trevino. "We're already hiring new flight attendants and recalling (furloughed) pilots."
Meanwhile, AMR is trying to complete a merger with US Airways Group Inc. that would make American the largest airline.
AMR's regional-flying subsidiary, American Eagle, increased jobs by 13.5 percent, to the equivalent of 11,244 full-timers.
Southwest Airlines Co. cut jobs by 0.7 percent, to 45,791. The figure includes AirTran, which Southwest bought in 2011.
Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz called the reduction of 325 jobs "relatively flat ... we are trying to reduce overhead costs at headquarters through natural attrition."
Frontier Airlines cut the equivalent of 626 jobs, or 14 percent of its smaller work force. Its parent company has been trying to sell the financially troubled carrier.
US Airways, Alaska Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Spirit Airlines, Allegiant Air and Virgin America added jobs from March 2012 to March 2013.
The Transportation Department counts two part-timers as one full-time worker.
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