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Microsoft denies companywide hiring freeze

The software maker denies an IDG News Service report that it's instituting a companywide hiring freeze, but confirms it's rethinking hiring plans amid economic uncertainty.

Microsoft on Friday said it is reviewing its hiring plans amid the economic uncertainty, but denied a report that it has instituted a companywide hiring freeze.

IDG News Service reported Friday that Microsoft had instituted a hiring freeze, citing a source who had seen a company memo. A source close to the company said that report is not correct, but said Microsoft did send out guidance this week that it plans to tighten up hiring amid signs of a weakening economy. The company still expects to add jobs overall, however.

CEO Steve Ballmer spoke last week of a certain "buoyancy" within the tech industry despite economic uncertainty, but also said that neither Microsoft nor the industry would be immune to a broad slowdown.

In comments this week in Europe, Ballmer sounded a slightly more cautious tone on the economy. Microsoft also urged Congress to pass the economic bailout bill after the House voted it down on Monday.

Update: IDG News Service has updated their post with a Microsoft spokesperson denying there is a companywide freeze.

"It is not true that we have instituted a hiring freeze," Microsoft spokesman Lou Gellos is quoted as saying. "What is true is that we are evaluating hiring as we always do and we might make projections that are different than perhaps we had at the beginning of the year....This year we expect lots of growth and that we will hire lots of people. I think the nuance is in the fact that in light of the economy it's important that we do the prudent thing and evaluate projects that we're working on."

Update 2: So much for buoyancy. Microsoft said "the current global economic situation has created a tough business environment for many companies" and added that since no company is immune to this, it is "imperative" for Microsoft to be fiscally responsible.

In a statement, Gellos said: "Microsoft will continue to grow and add thousands of new jobs this year, but given the current economic environment we are taking the prudent step of reviewing our hiring plans and will make some adjustments as appropriate," Gellos said. "We are optimistic about our prospects for growth and will continue hiring the talent we need to ensure our ongoing success."

The idea of a full-on hiring freeze at Microsoft seems impractical given the company's online services push, in particular. The company is already in the process of building and equipping a number of massive data centers as well as hiring more engineering talent in its effort to catch Google.

The company had 91,000 employees as of its last public statement. Ballmer was asked a question at the Churchill Club event last week and the reporter suggested that Microsoft now had more than 100,000 employees. Ballmer said he didn't think that was the case.