Workers at Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT) plants in Sanford and Clayton face the prospects of layoffs and “non-production days.”

Responding to inquiries from, a Caterpillar spokesperson would not discuss specific layoff numbers or just how many “non-production days” are involved.

Sources told that an entire shift was to be eliminated at the plant in Sanford and that 100 or so contract workers would be affected.

Both plants employ hundreds of people.

In the statement, Caterpillar said “business units are reviewing 2009 business plans as part of the Company’s established strategic planning process. Caterpillar has informed employees working for its Building Construction Products Division (BCP) that there will be a limited number of planned non-production days for BCP facilities in North Carolina (Sanford and Clayton) during the coming months.

“In addition, BCP is taking steps to manage its overall workforce and production schedules to respond to demand for BCP products during this time,” the statement continued. “Caterpillar’s focus is on making decisions and taking actions that will best position the company for long-term success and profitable growth.”

The Sanford and Clayton plants are used to produce general construction machinery.

“This would include back hoe loaders and skid steer loaders,” said Caterpillar spokesperson Jim Dugan. “These machines might be used for housing construction, in landscaping businesses as well as by general contractors”

Like home supply firms Lowe’s and Home Depot, Caterpillar has been hurt by the decline in the nation’s housing industry. In October, new housing starts fell 4.5 percent to an annual rate of 791,000 – the lowest since records began being kept in 1959, according to Bloomberg news service. Building permits also declined to levels not seen since the 1960s.