Furloughs hit private sector

Empty office space


Kai Ryssdal: Forget casual Fridays. The new recession trend is furlough Fridays. Tomorrow state, county and city offices from Connecticut to Seattle are going to be shut down temporarily as employees are forced to take unpaid leave. And Marketplace's Sam Eaton reports government workers aren't the only ones.

SAM EATON: In the white-collar world this form of temporary leave without pay has been largely absent. Until now. Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld is an employment expert at the University of Illinois. He says in a global, knowledge-based economy layoffs are now seen as a last resort.

JOEL CUTCHER-GERSHENFELD: Knowledge and skills that employers have invested in are more valuable than ever. And so if there's a way to retain talent rather than lay it off employers will prefer that to retain their investments.

It also positions companies to respond quickly once the economy recovers. Universities, high-tech firms and publishing companies, among others are embracing the furlough as a way to cut costs without cutting staff. But employment lawyer Robert Duston says there is a downside.

ROBERT DUSTON: Some of those people who are being furloughed, if you do it across the board, could be extremely productive.

But he says that's the nature of furloughs. The idea is to spread the pain evenly across the entire company.

I'm Sam Eaton for Marketplace.

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Sam Eaton is an independent radio and television journalist. His reporting on complex environmental issues from climate change to population growth has taken him all over the United States and the world.


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