Factories in Haifa and the north of the country have laid off 8,000 employees since the outbreak of the economic crisis in September last year, as a result of a downturn in sales, the Israel Manufacturers' Association reported on Tuesday. In the fourth quarter of 2008, about 50 percent of the factories in Haifa and the north have cut their work force, while 54% are continuing to reduce headcount in the first quarter of this year, according to a survey conducted by the association among a sample of factories. On average, factories have been laying off 10 to 11% of their working staff. In addition, 80% of the surveyed factories reported that working hours have been reduced by an average of 19%. More than two thirds or 77% of the factories said that sales to the local market were down between 20 to 25%, while 54% said that exports in the third part of 2008 dropped by an average 40%.