Warren Buffett Adds 17,000 Employees To Payroll

Since the end of 2011, Berkshire Hathaway added around 17,000 employees to their payroll. CEO and chairman Warren Buffett expanded their retail, media, manufacturing and insurance businesses.

In total, Berkshire Hathaway and over 80 subsidiaries employ roughly 288,000 people. We learned this through a Berkshire Hathaway regulatory filing yesterday. The total amount of employees is 6.3% higher than the disclosed 270,858 people mentioned in the 2011 annual report.

Berkshire Hathaway has reduced their reliance on insurance companies as they started to invest in a multitude of industries. This willingness has made the company one of the largest employers in the United States. Over the last five years, companies that strictly sell insurance like Chubb Corp. and Travelers Cos. have actually reduced their staff throughout the end of 2011 and returned the added capital to their shareholders. Berkshire Hathaway doesn’t pay a dividend and they did not buy back shares for decades until very recently.

Warren Buffett has decided to focus on “hard assets and older fashion businesses,” like manufacturing and railroads, Meyer Shields says, who is an analyst for Stifel Nicolaus & Co.

The Berkshire Hathaway workforce has soared from a decade ago when it was only 147,000 people. Since then, Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway have made some of their biggest acquisitions including the purchase of Burlington Northern Santa Fe during 2010 for $26.5 billion. They also added Lubrizol Corp. in 2011 for another $9 billion.

“When you’re buying a company with a market value in the billions or tens of billions, then you’re going to get a significant headcount associated with that,” said Shields.

Buffett has also granted power to deputies in order to make deals to expand their businesses. Managers of a Berkshire Hathaway, including Lubrizol CEO James Hambrick and Victor Mancinelli, leader of CTB Inc., the farm product unit, both announced deals last year that will expand their operations throughout Europe and the United States. These bolt on purchases cost Berkshire Hathaway around $1.8 billion during a nine-month period ending on September 30.

Party Supplies

Warren Buffett also purchased 60 newspapers, including the Richmond Times Dispatch, and he also bought the company Oriental Trading Co., which sells party supplies. Buffett has stated that he would rather buy a company outright then purchase their stock.

All of this expansion shows us that Berkshire Hathaway now employs many US workers. According to the Labor Department data, there were roughly 134,000,000 US employees on non-farm payrolls throughout the end of the year. We can compare this to 130.2 million just 10 years earlier.

The US economy grew by 1.4% last year, and this matched the total gain of 2011. This was the best back-to-back reading since the years 2005 through 2006.

Berkshire Hathaway stock has risen by 9.3% this year in New York trading. It beat out the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, which only made a gain of 5.7%. Last year, Warren Buffett’s company rose 17% and the S&P 500 only went up 13%.

Real Estate

The residential real estate market in the United States has rebounded, and this has certainly helped some of the subsidiaries of Berkshire Hathaway, including the companies that make bricks, sell carpet, put in insulation and sell other building products. Housing starts rose to a 954,000 annual pace this past December, and it is the largest level since 2008 according to Commerce Department figures.

Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway had to cut this workforce during 2009 by over 20,000 jobs during the recession because of a slump in manufacturing and retail.

“We will be adding people at some point, but we won’t do it until we see the demand come back,” said Buffett in a 2009 interview with the CEO of Business Wire. This is a unit of Berkshire Hathaway that posts corporate press releases. “It’ll be a little slow because we don’t want to go through what we did before. Although, I will guarantee you that three years from now, our brick companies, our carpet company, and our insulation company will all be employing far more people than now.”

The latest company disclosure, related to a filing tied into debt issuance, did not break down the employment numbers by unit. Last February, when they issued the 2011 annual report, showed us that 39,000 workers were employed at the railroad, Fruit of the Loom employed over 27,000, Geico employed about 26,000 and Shaw Carpet employed 22,650 people.

During this past December, Geico mentioned that they plan to hire 4000 new employees during 2013. They expanded their payroll by about 20% over the last five years.

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