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At Google, fewer 'Nooglers'

In the last three months, the search giant has pulled back from its average hiring rates.

Google's voracious appetite for new hires has eased off for the first time since the company went public in August 2004. In the last three months, the search giant added only 6 percent, or 889 people, to its employee roster--bringing Google's worldwide headcount to 16,805, according to the company's latest quarterly filing released Thursday.

That percentage is down nearly a third from the previous quarter's hires (2,130 new employees from June 2007 to September 2007) and off a third of its average quarterly hiring rate since June 2004, according to CNET calculations.

During the company's quarterly conference call Thursday, Google CEO Eric Schmidt explained that six months ago, the company brought on employees a little ahead of itself. But now, Google's returned to normal hiring rates, he said. CFO Georges Reyes also said during the call that fourth-quarter hiring tends to be slower than usual because of the holidays, but that Google will continue to invest "in its core business in the United States and internationally."

Still, with signs of an economic slowdown and the fact that Google missed analyst estimates, it's hard to know whether the company will restart its hiring spree once again. On average, Google has packed on 15 percent to its total workforce every three months since it went public, with highs of 20 percent hiring rates during quarters in 2005 and 2006.

To translate this latest dip: an average of 13 Nooglers (as new staffers are called) showed up at Google every workday last quarter for their employee training session and first free meal. But during the three months before, Google's human resources dealt with as many as 32 Nooglers per workday.

As Google's stock falls back from a high in the $700s, it might also follow that its hiring rates ease off. After all, Google's workforce has risen by more than 600 percent since it went public in August 2004--a nearly identical trajectory to its stock price. (Its shares were down about 6 percent to $525 in after-hours trading Thursday.)

Schmidt didn't hint at any slowdown, however. Google plans to hire more international employees and a balance of technology and nontechnical staff, he said. "We are a very difficult place to get a job at and so we look at the very top...talent."