It's no party this year for many U.S. cos-survey

SAN FRANCISCO Mon Oct 27, 2008 1:00pm EDT

SAN FRANCISCO Oct 27 (Reuters) - Whether you love or hate your company's annual holiday office party, it may not even happen this year.

As a financial crisis roils world markets and fears of a deep global recession grow, about one-fifth of U.S. businesses are saying 'no' to end-of-year festivities this holiday season, according to a survey due for release on Monday.

That would mark the lowest percentage of office parties seen in the 20 years since executive search firm Battalia Winston Amrop began its annual survey.

If you're one of the lucky ones to keep on celebrating, be aware that only 71 percent of companies are offering booze this year -- a cruel and unusual punishment, perhaps, given the sobering state of the economy.

"We've always looked at this as the year-end economic barometer," said Battalia Winston Amrop Chief Executive Dale Winston. "People will still have parties, but it's the mood of the country -- the mood of the country is not a celebratory mood."

This year, only 81 percent of companies are throwing a party, fewer than during the holiday season that followed the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, or during the recession of 1991.

Some 37 percent of companies blamed the economy for more modest party plans this year, the survey found, nearly double the number from last year.

Granted, it's hard to find something to celebrate lately. One major U.S. bank or investment firm after another has tumbled in recent weeks, taxpayers are grumbling over footing a $700 billion bill for a government bailout of the financial industry, and some fear their companies may not even be open for business in a couple of months.

How about a canape?

DRUGS AND BONUSES

Just last month, party planners said they were getting a more cautious view from clients, some of which did not bat an eye at spending up to hundreds of thousands of dollars on holiday parties in recent years.

But not all industries view the downturn the same. If you work in the pharmaceutical industry, you are more likely to party than the folks working in financial services and manufacturing, the report found.

It cited 85 percent of healthcare or pharmaceutical companies, which said the economy would have no impact on their holiday party plans versus 42 percent in financial services and manufacturing.

And don't count on a bonus to spread holiday cheer. Some 62 percent of companies that usually give out year-end bonuses said that this year those checks would be the same -- or smaller. (Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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