The U.S. Mint is laying off more than 350 employees, many of them seasonal and temporary workers, because of the sluggish economy, an agency spokesman said Monday. The agency, which has laid off about 245 seasonal and temporary employees nationwide since August, has not ruled out reducing its permanent workforce through attrition and retirement, according to Mint spokesman Matt Kilbourne. So far, there are no specific jobs within the permanent workforce that are targeted for cuts. "We are a close-knit organization, and we value our employees dearly," Kilbourne said. "Like any organization, it is regrettable that we have to look at workforce reduction, but we must operate in an efficient manner to maintain the public trust." In the late 1990s, the U.S. Mint was transformed
from a stereotypical government bureaucracy to a booming business with approximately $3.7 billion in annual revenues. The agency retains a portion of its revenue to cover its expenses and gives the rest to the U.S. Treasury. It gets no appropriations from Congress and is vulnerable to changes in the financial markets. The Mint will take in approximately 1.8 billion in revenue in 2001, about 800 million less than last year's figure, Kilbourne said. Last year, the Mint made about 24 billion new coins, but low demand during 2001 means the agency will produce only 16 billion coins for 2002. "The economy slowed down a bit, which resulted in a decrease in demand for coins," Kilbourne said. "We revised our estimates [for coin production] periodically as the year went on, and decided not to produce as many coins for next year. Like any business, we have to adjust for changes in demand." The Mint employs seasonal and temporary workers as needed to keep pace with the public demand for coins. More than 2,800 employees work at the Mint's headquarters in Washington, D.C. and its five facilities in Denver, San Francisco, Philadelphia, West Point, N.Y and Fort Knox, Ky. Although Kilbourne did not have specific information on layoffs at the Washington headquarters, he said the Philadelphia and San Francisco offices had let 104 and 101 employees go, respectively. About 40 employees in the agency's Denver facility lost their jobs. The job cuts have been going on since August, starting with the San Francisco facility, Kilbourne said. The agency issued a report to employees in September that outlined next year's revenue projections and the agency's reduced coin production. "We are keeping all employees informed as we go along," Kilbourne said. "We didn't talk specifically about employment, but we provided an overview of where we are and the changes that are coming."