Local firms plan layoffs - survey

Concern over looming recession has business executives edgy.

unemployment 88 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
unemployment 88 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Leading Israeli companies are planning to cut their workforce due to concerns a recession is developing, Business Data Israel said Monday, citing a survey it conducted together with the Aviv Group. "The firing of workers is still considered a preliminary and efficient measure by company executives to prepare for a recession," Aviv Group CEO Koby Moshe said. "The survey shows that the majority of managers are in a state of denial - meaning that they are not recognizing the hidden opportunities offered during a recession. "The majority believe that there will be a slowdown or a recession, but only a few prepare and organize themselves properly. Only the companies or organizations that properly examine the effects on their sector as a whole, and on their company in particular, will have better chances to survive a recession." The results of the survey, conducted among 350 chief executives and financial managers, found that 23 percent of the companies expect to cut their workforce. Asked about the probability of a recession in the near future, 17% of the respondents said there was a high probability, while 56% said there was a medium likelihood. BDI-Coface economists reported that 52% of the respondents said their companies had taken significant measures to prepare for a recession, while 48% said they had not invested in any preparations. The survey found that 33% of the respondents believe proper preparation and organization is the way to minimize the effects of a recession on their company, while 30% believe early preparation will not be effective. Only 24% of those who believe in early preparation of their companies ahead of a recession said they had taken proper measures. The survey showed that 67% of the surveyed companies did not plan to make changes or postpone their investment plans for 2009, while 33% said they would make amendments to their plans and 7% said they would freeze all of their investment plans for the coming year. "The concerns among executives in Israel over the outbreak of a recession is based on a number of indicators from around the world, and in Israel, including price increases, liquidity crunch, decline in demands from the US, currency appreciation beyond the dollar bloc, and fierce competition," said Tehilla Yanai, co-CEO of BDI-Coface Israel. "From the data of the companies in the Coface ranking index for the first quarter of 2008, we are already witnessing a deterioration in the transfer of payments of companies around the world, which is expressed among others in the increase of 45% in irregular payments and financial difficulties of the companies." Positive data in the first quarter concerning the country's economy, including the growth rate and the standard of living, are mitigating some of those concerns, she added. The country's gross domestic product expanded an annualized 5.4% in the first quarter, compared with the 3.4% estimate forecasted by the Bank of Israel for 2008. The unemployment rate fell in the first quarter to 6.3%, from a revised 6.7% in the last quarter in 2007, and 7.8% in the same period last year. Meanwhile, the Manufacturers Association of Israel reported Monday that since the beginning of 2007, about 55 small- and medium-sized factories had closed down in the construction and consumer goods industries, cutting the jobs of 600 workers. The main reasons behind the closures included the plunge of the dollar against the shekel, the increase in costs and competition from cheap imports, the association said.