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Thousands Of Workers Begin Week With Layoffs


The economy continues to lose jobs at a disturbing pace. Yesterday, several big corporations announced major layoffs. NPR's Wendy Kaufman has more.

WENDY KAUFMAN: The layoff announcement from Caterpillar, the world's largest maker of construction equipment and an economic bellwether, was all too familiar. Quarterly profits were down; the future is dim. Thus, the company is shedding about 20,000 positions, including contract and other workers.

Other big cuts were announced yesterday by Sprint-Nextel, Home Depot and Texas Instruments. Drug maker Pfizer, which is buying rival Wyeth, said it planned to eliminate about 19,000 jobs, or about 5 percent of the combined company's workforce. Typically, companies are cutting jobs through layoffs and attrition.

Mr. KEN GOLDSTEIN (Labor Economist, The Conference Board): I don't know anybody who really saw that this was going to get this bad this quickly.

KAUFMAN: Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein says the January job cuts come on top of huge job losses in November and December. That was the worst two-month period for such losses in half a century.

Mr. GOLDSTEIN: Part of the reason why we have folks down in Washington, D.C., talking about spending a huge amount of money in terms of a stimulative program is precisely because of just how bad the situation is, and how quickly it developed momentum.

KAUFMAN: The unemployment rate now stands at 7.2 percent. Over the next year, it's widely expected to go to 8 percent, possibly hitting 9 percent. Wendy Kaufman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Wendy Kaufman