Paul King, mine manager, inspects a Caterpillar Inc. haul truck at the Australian Bulk Minerals iron ore mine at Savage River in Tasmania, Australia, on Nov. 6, 2008. Photographer: Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg News
Jan. 26 (Bloomberg) — Caterpillar Inc., Sprint Nextel Corp. and Home Depot Inc. led companies today announcing at least 72,500 job cuts as sales withered and construction slowed amid a global economic recession that may persist through 2009.
The biggest layoffs were at Peoria, Illinois-based Caterpillar. The world’s largest maker of construction equipment said it’s cutting 20,000 jobs after fourth-quarter profit fell by almost a third.
Pfizer Inc., the New York-based drugmaker that’s acquiring competitor Wyeth for $68 billion, said it will close five factories and eliminate 19,000 jobs, or 15 percent, of the combined company’s workforce.
The firings came as American jobless claims hit a 26-year high, reaching 589,000 in the week ended Jan. 17, as shrinking demand for products and services forced companies to lower costs.
Employers “are each cutting thousands of jobs. These are not just numbers on a page,” U.S. President Barack Obama said today at the White House. “We cannot afford delays” in passing the economic stimulus program now before Congress.
Sprint Nextel Corp., the U.S. wireless carrier, will eliminate 8,000 jobs, or 14 percent of its workforce, in order to reduce expenses by $1.2 billion a year.
Home Depot Inc., the world’s largest home-improvement retailer, said it will cut 7,000 jobs, or 2 percent of its workforce, and exit its Expo home-décor business.
“Certainly since 2001, with the dot-com collapse, we haven’t seen these kinds of large cuts,” James Pedderson, a spokesman for Challenger Gray & Christmas Inc., a Chicago-based provider of executive-outplacement services, said in an interview. “In terms of the number of companies and the number of cuts, this morning is certainly unusual.”
General Motors Corp., the largest U.S. automaker, said it will eliminate shifts at Michigan and Ohio plants, shedding 2,000 jobs as sales drop.
In Europe, ING Groep NV, the biggest Dutch financial- services company, said it will reduce its workforce by 5.4 percent, eliminating 7,000 jobs, after its second consecutive quarterly loss.
Royal Philips Electronics NV, Europe’s largest maker of consumer electronics, said it will cut 6,000 positions after its first quarterly loss in almost six years.
Corus, the unit of India’s Tata Steel Ltd. that’s Europe’s second-biggest steelmaker, said it will reduce its workforce by 8 percent, or 3,500 jobs, as demand from builders and automakers declines.
To contact the reporter on this story: Don Jeffrey in New York at email@example.com.
Last Updated: January 26, 2009 12:22 EST
By Don Jeffrey