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Office holiday party: More companies skip it

By Aaron Smith, staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Companies are pulling the plug on holiday parties, which are heading into their slowest season since at least the 1980s, according to a survey.

Only 79% of businesses will hold a holiday party in 2010, the worst turnout since Amrop Battalia Winston began conducting its annual survey 22 years ago. The rate is lower than the 81% participation rate seen in 2008 and 2009, in the middle of the recession, the survey said.

The holiday party slump isn't so much about budget-conscious belt tightening. It's more of a matter of perception during troubled times. The survey said that 27% of respondents who aren't throwing a party say it isn't in their budget, while 55% "don't think it's appropriate in these economic times."

"People are just not in the mood to celebrate," said Dale Winston, chief executive of Amrop Battalia Winston. "We've got a jobless recovery and the economy is in the highest state of unemployment, probably in our lifetimes."

Also, fewer corporations are willing to pay for non-employee guests, such as spouses, friends or clients. Some 69% of companies are implementing an employee-only policy on the parties, compared to 52% in 2006..

Of the companies that are throwing holiday parties, 37% said it was to celebrate a good 2010, 33% said it was to boost employee morale, and 29% said it was to show clients and employees that they're optimistic about 2011.

Companies are becoming less generous in other ways this year and charities are feeling the squeeze. Only 47% companies are donating to charities this year, compared to 66% last year and 74% the year before.

But more companies will serve alcohol at their holiday parties, with 79% allowing booze in the 2010 season, compared to 73% in 2009 and 71% in 2008, the survey said. But it's still far below the peak of 90% that was achieved in 2000.

"Alcohol sales usually go up in a recession, so it's consistent with the economic outlook," said Winston. To top of page

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