Corporate travel cuts: Most common cost-saver for companies

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Faced with the deepest recession in at least a generation, companies are scrambling to cut costs. Judging by the torrent of layoff announcements and dismal unemployment figures, a lot of people are learning the hard way that their employers are not immune from such pressures. But there are plenty of ways to limit expenses, as a new survey by consulting firm Watson Wyatt shows -- and layoffs aren't yet the most common.

Some 69 percent of companies say they've tightened restrictions on company travel, while 56 percent instituted hiring freezes, according to Watson Wyatt's poll of 245 big U.S. businesses. That's compared with 52 percent that have laid people off.The survey also asked about what cost-cutting measures companies expect to take next. Among the most popular: Asking workers to contribute more toward their health insurance (24 percent), corporate restructuring (20 percent), and implementing a salary freeze (14 percent).

Just 13 percent of companies in the survey expect to lay workers off in the future, down from 23 percent in December.

Still, it's worth looking at such figures skeptically. The unemployment rate hit 7.6 percent in January and the Federal Reserve expects it to reach 8.8 percent by the end of this year. Many independent economists consider that forecast conservative. So don't be surprised to see companies trimming around the edges -- then resorting to more layoffs if that isn't enough.
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