General Motors is putting out help wanted signs.
GM said Tuesday that it will add or keep 4,000 jobs in the U.S. by hiring new employees or calling back furloughed workers over the next year and a half. It's the latest sign that that the company and U.S. car industry are recovering from a sales slump and bankruptcies.
"Those jobs impact and reverberate in our economy," said GM CEO Dan Akerson, who spoke at a transmission plant in Toledo, where up to 400 new workers will be hired or retained.
GM will spend $2 billion at 17 plants in eight states to create the new work. Most of the investment will be in the Midwest. Beyond that, few details were released about where the jobs will land.
It's also not clear how many of the positions will be new hires. Many will be existing jobs retained with the introduction of new cars and trucks. The automaker will announce over the next few months which plants are getting new investments.
GM spokeswoman Kimberly Carpenter said the company has about 1,300 laid off workers waiting to be recalled in the U.S. GM expects to recall all of them by the end of the year and already is adding workers at factories in Flint, Mich., Orion Township, Mich., and Delta Township, Mich., near Lansing, she said.
The news is sure to boost GM's image after it came under fire for taking a $50 billion government bailout.
All the jobs will be in addition to 9,500 created or retained since GM left bankruptcy protection in 2009.
Akerson said he's confident about the economy and demand for new cars, especially fuel-efficient models that have helped GM's sales. General Motors Co. reported its best profit in more than a decade last week, earning $3.2 billion in the first quarter.
GM also plans to invest in factories outside the U.S. to meet increased demand, Akerson said, but he would give no details.
"Our cars are selling well," he said. "We seem to have hit a sweet spot."
In Toledo, workers wearing red T-shirts saying "Support us We support you" stood and cheered when Akerson said GM will build a new eight-speed transmission at the plant.
The new transmissions will not replace the six-speed ones that the factory already makes for more than a dozen models, including the Chevrolet Corvette and Camaro and the Cadillac Escalade.
For Brad Cowell, 20, of Toledo, the timing couldn't be better. He's a temporary worker at the plant who was just called back from layoff this week to build transmissions for the fast selling Chevrolet Cruze compact.
The chance to stay on full-time will make him work harder, he said.
GM would not reveal which vehicle will get the new eight-speed transmissions that are designed to increase gas mileage by shifting into the most efficient gear.
Any new hires will be paid GM's entry-level wage of $14 per hour, about half the wages of a veteran union autoworker. The United Auto Workers agreed to the lower wages in contract concessions when GM was headed toward bankruptcy protection two years ago.
In contract talks this summer, the UAW will ask GM about reopening plants in Spring Hill, Tenn., and Janesville, Wisc., as well as new vehicles for the Shreveport, La., plant which is slated to close.
The union is willing to discuss taking on more $14 per hour jobs to make that happen, said Joe Ashton, UAW vice president.
"We're willing to discuss anything that creates jobs," he said.
Part of GM's investment includes about 250 jobs announced last week at a Kentucky plant that builds Corvettes.