The bad news is, employers see the current recession lasting a while. The good news is, they also seem to think the worst of layoff and other cuts is past.

New survey data from Watson Wyatt shows 61% of employers expect the current downturn to last at least until the end of 2009. However, the firm reports that most companies already have made most of the sweeping changes they intend to.

"Companies have come to terms with the fact that this recession is going to last and that they can´t slash their way out of it," says Laura Sejen, global director of strategic rewards consulting at Watson Wyatt. "With over half of companies reporting they have already made layoffs, they are now focusing on smaller, more sustainable cost-cutting actions."

According to the survey of 245 large U.S. employers conducted in February, 52% have made layoffs, up from 39% two months ago. Additionally, 56% now have a hiring freeze in effect, an increase from 47% in December´s survey.

However, the number of companies planning layoffs has fallen from 23% to 13%. "This may be good news," notes Laurie Bienstock, Watson senior compensation consultant, "as companies move more towards cost-cutting efforts other than workforce reductions in an effort to hold on to the workers they will need when recovery eventually comes."

Workers won't be untouched by those other cost-cutting efforts, though. Among them are:
* Salary freezes, 42% (up from 13%).
* Reductions in 401(k) matches, 12% (up from 3%).
* A shortened workweek, 13% (up from 2%).
* Travel restrictions, 69% (up from 48%).

What do you think? In terms of layoffs, is the worst over? What alternative cost-cutting measures are you considering in lieu of/in addition to salary reductions? Comment and let me know.

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