Roanoke Times
                 Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: SATURDAY, December 31, 1994                   TAG: 9501030028
SECTION: BUSINESS                    PAGE: A-6   EDITION: METRO 
DATELINE: CHICAGO                                  LENGTH: Medium


THIS YEAR'S LAYOFFS had less to do with bad economic conditions and more to do with streamlining.

As the year ends with another flurry of pink slips, the toll of the layoffs may be ebbing.

U.S. companies said they would lay off about half a million workers in 1994, compared with 615,186 in 1993, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based job placement firm.

The number of companies laying off workers - about 670 - appears to be about the same as last year, according to preliminary figures.

But the firm's count is incomplete, since not all companies publicly announce their layoffs and the government does not track layoffs.

``Because of the strength of the economy, big cuts are being put off for some time, but smaller, ongoing cuts do not seem to have abated,'' said John Challenger, executive vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

It's unclear whether layoffs will continue to decline in 1995.

Most management surveys indicate that companies plan to rely on layoffs in the coming year, and Eric Greenberg of the American Management Association suggested that such steps have become routine.

``Companies that do it once do it again and again,'' said Greenberg, whose New York-based business group has regularly tracked cutbacks among large companies.``It becomes like painting the Golden Gate bridge. They are always painting it.''

What's different today, according to Greenberg, is that layoffs often are not driven by dire economic conditions, but rather come from officials' desire to winnow their work forces.

``They are looking for that core group that they need to turn on the lights in the morning and shut the door at night,'' he said.

The latest cutback announcements came just this week, from Unisys Corp. of Blue Bell, Pa., the nation's fifth-largest computer maker, and Gibson Greetings Inc. of Cincinnati, a major greeting card company.

Unisys noted ``disappointing'' financial results in 1994 to explain its layoff decision.

Citing slowed sales of its large computer systems and lower profits in Europe, Unisys said it will trim 4,000 workers, or about 9 percent of its work force, in the coming year as it becomes more service-oriented.

The computer company also pointed out that it expects to have hired 2,000 people in its service areas by the end of 1995.

Saying its move is an effort to trim expenses, Gibson said it will reduce its work force by about 5 percent, or 128 jobs. This will save about $5 million before taxes next year, officials said.

Company officials told reporters the cutbacks were not the result of the company's losses in derivative contracts. The company recently reached a settlement with Bankers Trust New York Co., agreeing to pay $6.18 million to be released from derivative contracts that might have cost it as much as $19 million.

The two layoffs follow a pattern set by many companies in the 1990s.

As they have faced deregulation, greater competition, or decided to reorganize, U.S. companies have increasingly relied on layoffs rather than other cost-cutting solutions.

American companies seemed committed to layoffs in 1994 despite often-negative results from their cutbacks, said Greenberg, research director for the American Management Association.

``Only one-third of the companies report productivity gains. No more than half report increased profits, and nearly all report a negative impact on morale,'' said Greenberg, citing his group's most recent studies.

The fallout from such changes is an anxious work force, according to a recent survey of 100 Chicago-area human resource directors by Cambridge Human Resource Group Inc., a job-placement firm.

Among their major concerns, company officials said, was a need to ``revitalize'' employees and to help veteran workers who have not ``adjusted fast enough to the realities of the new workplace.''

``People are under great pressure. Some are doing two and three jobs. There's a lot of paranoia'' said Carole Crane, an official with the job-placement firm. ``People need to be listened to and told what's going on.''

YEAR 1994

 by CNB