Salt Lake City -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Utah's largest religion and employer, has cut hundreds of jobs from its Utah workforce.
Faced with falling investment income, and perhaps feeling the effects of lower tithing, the church recently offered voluntary early retirements, effective for nearly 1,000 employees this week, The Salt Lake Tribune reported in a copyright story. About 600 employees opted to take advantage of the voluntary exit, and 40 percent of the vacated positions will not be filled.
The church refused to provide employment specifics.
However, based on employment ranges from a Web site operated by Utah's Workforce Services Department, The Tribune estimated the Mormon church tops the state's next biggest employer - state government - by more than 10,000 employees, or 33,355 compared to 22,500.
Figures show about 29,140 employees working directly for the church in Utah, as distinct from the more than 4,215 working at its for-profit businesses.
The release of 600 employees represents a 2 percent reduction in Mormon church employment in Utah.
"Like many large organizations attempting to meet the challenges of a difficult economy, the church is reviewing a number of options to better manage overall costs, including numbers of employees," said church spokesman Dale Bills.
"Since church financial resources come largely from the tithes and offerings of members, church leaders regard these funds as sacred and strive always to be wise and careful in how resources are managed."
As a nonprofit religious organization, the state's largest employer is exempt from unemployment insurance requirements and anti-discrimination laws.