January 24, 2009 / 1:43 AM / 11 years ago

Microsoft CEO sees slow economic rebound: employees

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer speaks to shareholders at the Microsoft annual shareholders meeting in Bellevue, Washington, November 19, 2008. REUTERS/Marcus R. Donner

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) CEO Steve Ballmer said the U.S. economy likely will not bottom out until about a year from now, and it will return to a slow growth-track only after a few years, according to people who attended a meeting with Ballmer and other executives on Friday.

The chief executive of the world’s largest software maker, which announced its biggest-ever job cuts a day earlier, tried to rally troops at the company-wide meeting but stood by plans to lay off up to 5,000 employees, or about 5 percent of the workforce, saying it was the “right decision.”

Asked about his assumptions for the economy, Ballmer said, “We may find a bottom in a year,” according to a Microsoft employee who attended the meeting.

“I’m thinking the bottom is deep, but less deep than the 1929 bottom, for example,” Ballmer was quoted as saying by the employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was not open to media.

“The economy goes down and stays down, then you start to get slow growth again in a few years,” Ballmer said.

A spokesman for Microsoft declined to comment.

Microsoft’s earnings report on Thursday, which included the layoff announcement, sent shock waves across financial markets. Microsoft shares fell 12 percent to an 11-year low that day, and recovered only 0.53 percent to $17.20 on Friday.

One employee questioned why he had so far not seen an apology for the widespread layoffs, to which Ballmer replied that an apology would be implying they had made the wrong decision.

Reporting by Edwin Chan and Tiffany Wu; editing by Carol Bishopric

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