While the stell and motor vehicle industries were hard hit by the severe cold weather and natural gas shortages this year, industries such as aluminum and most chemicals faced minimal disruption, according to commerce Department survey.
The agency conducted a telephone survey of large companies in seven major industries - steel, aluminum, copper, chemicals, glass, farm equipment and motor vehicles.
Six steel companies accounting for 60 per cent of the nation's production reported "that weather conditions and fuel disruptions caused sporadic curtailments and effected employment losses during the first five weeks of 1977."
The department said that while hard data were difficult to come by, the "six companies indicated a loss of 4,400 jobs (40 per cent) in New York State, 4,200 jobs (36 per cent) in Alabama, 5,100 jobs (15 per cent) in Ohio, and a 3,500 job decline (7 per cent) in pennsylvanis."
The four major copper companies which account for 70 per cent of total production reported to the government that they had little problems because their "facilities generally are located outside of the area affected."
The hardest hit regions were the Middle West and Northeast, where cold weather, fuel shortages and heavy snows all took their toll on factory output. The Federal Reserve Board reported earlier this week that industrial production was down 1 per cent in January and cautioned that the data was incomplete on the last half of the month, when conditions were most severe.
In the motor vehicle industry, lay-offs reached a peak of 100,000 in the week ending Jan. 31, then dropped to 80,000 during the first week in February. "But Feb. 7, the major portion of the affected plants had resumed either normal or near-normal operations and the number of furloughed workers was expected to drop approximately 16,000as of February 12," the Commerce Department said.
Most of the 25 chemical companies which account for half the nation's shipments reported "minimal employment or production disruptions," the agency said, becaus the companies had already made arrangements to substitute for natural gas.
But ammonia producers, which use natural gas as a feedstock, shrply curtailed production.
Aluminum producers reported slight problems. The glass industry , which consumer 200 billion cubic feet of gas a year, faced some disruption but most companies had returned to normal by mid-month, the Commerce Department said.
"Prio conversion to other fuels int he three major glass sectors (presse and blown, container and tempered) prevented a more serious current impact this winter," the department survey reported.
Farm equipment makers, which account for about 65 per cent of the industry's sales, had already converted from natural gas to coal or other energy and faced little problems. About 500 workers were laid off for a week, the Commerce Department said.