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Google has announced that it will cut its temporary workforce, but no one is quite sure how many people will be affected. 

In an unusual move, Google filed notice of its cost-cutting plans in paper, not electronically, with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) during the holidays. This left many analysts and stock trackers in the dark for more than two weeks.

A search of “Google layoffs” returns a series of Web listings that speculate the number of contracted employees who are no longer associated with the company.    Google is responsible for this confusion.  In October, co-founder Sergey Brin stated in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News that the number of contractors employed by Google was around 10,000.  “It’s really high,” Brin said.

In November, the search giant announced plans to reduce its contracted force in an effort to maintain growth and investments in the full time staff.  In the Dec. 15, 2008 SEC filing, Google revealed that it had 24,400 employees, including 4,300 interns, temporary workers and contractors.  The filing also states that Google has been slowly reducing these positions with industry estimates at 5,000 total positions eliminated.

While Google’s revenue has continued to grow, its business volume has been declining.  Google’s management had curbed some of the generous employee perks that have defined Google as a workplace for the past 10 years.  According to online postings, Google has closed some company cafeterias that serve free meals and, in December, withheld an annual $1,000 holiday gift opting to hand out free cell phones that run on Google software.  Google representatives have valued this item at about $400.

Google doesn’t plan to scrimp on research and development or acquisitions.  In the SEC filing, Google said it expects to devote roughly 18 percent of its annual expenses over the next two years to research and development. When reviewing the last four quarters of investments this equals about $2.7 billion.

Google’s stock was down 55 percent in 2008, but closed up $3.18 today (Jan. 8) at $325.19.