The pace of corporate layoffs has picked up sharply since the beginning of the year, reflecting the worsening US recession.
On Friday alone, companies as diverse as General Electric, Pfizer, Advanced Micro Devices, Wellpoint and Hertz announced big cuts in staffing.
Motorola announced earlier this week it will cut an additional 4,000 employees as it faced weaker-than-expected handset sales. And software company Autodesk said it is cutting 750 jobs, or about 10 percent of its employees, as it prepares to report a loss in the fourth quarter.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that first-time requests for unemployment insurance jumped to a seasonally adjusted 524,000 in the week ending Jan. 10, from an upwardly revised figure of 470,000 the previous week. Analysts had expected 500,000 new claims.
The jump in last week’s numbers, combined with a slew of layoffs announced this week, signal that jobless claims will continue to rise.
“The experience of previous deep recessions suggests claims are nowhere near their peak, and we doubt that peak will be reached before the fall of this year,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist for consulting firm High Frequency Economics.
Shepherdson said in a research note that weekly jobless claims could reach 750,000 later this year.
Here is a rundown of corporate job cuts announced so far this year.
- Pfizerplans to lay off as many as 2,400 sales staff this quarter in a continuing reorganization. The drugmaker has already cut about 15,000 jobs in the past two years, including 800 research jobs earlier this week, to downsize before the company's $12 billion-a-year.
- General Electric
's GE Capital unit will cut between 7,000 and 11,000 jobs. GE had said it would reduce costs at GE Capital by about $2 billion this year, according to the report.
Advanced Micro Devices plans to cut 1,100 jobs, 9 percent of its global staff, and slash the remaining employees' pay as the chip maker hopes its third round of layoffs in a year can help it get through a brutal market for computer sales.
- Insurance company WellPoint said that it would eliminate about 1,500 positions, or about 3.5 percent of its workforce, to reduce administrative costs.
- Rental car company Hertz Global said Friday it will eliminate more than 4,000 jobs worldwide as it further cuts costs amid slowing demand.
Delta Air Lines , which took over rival Northwest Airlines last year, said it expects about 2,000 staff to opt for an early retirement program as it aims to trim capacity as much as 8 percent this year.
- Autodesk is cutting 750 jobs, or about 10 percent of its work force to cut expenses and expects to report a loss rather than a profit for the fourth quarter.
- Marshall & Ilsley is cutting 830 jobs, or 8 percent of the total. It said 80 percent of the cuts had already been made. It also began a program to reduce costs by $100 million a year, and said no executive officers will receive bonuses for 2008.
- Hybrid electric and electric powertrain maker Azure Dynamics said it would reduce its workforce by about 25 percent as part of a cost-reduction plan.
- Motorola said it would cut another 4,000 jobs, as it forecast a fourth-quarter loss and weaker-than-expected handset sales. The company had previously announced a plan to cut 3,000 jobs in October 2008.
- MeadWestvaco , which makes paper and plastic products, said it will cut some 2,000 employees, or about 10 percent of its work force, as it accelerates cost savings
- Google said it was closing three engineering offices and cutting 100 recruiters as the recession dampens hiring. Computer equipment maker Seagate Technology also said it will eliminate 2,950 jobs, or 6 percent of its work force.
- Seagate Technology is cutting thousands of jobs and slashing some employees' salaries by as much as 25 percent, a surprise move coming just a few days after the company changed chief executives and announced it was cutting 800 U.S.-based workers.
- St. Paul-based sanitizer and detergent maker Ecolab laid off 1,000 workers in response to the economy that has dramatically affected the company's restaurant and hotel customers.
- The nation's largest book store chain Barnes & Noble said it would cut nearly 100 jobs at its corporate headquarters in New York, due mostly to reduced store openings and consolidated operations at its retail and online segments. The company said it would provide affected employees with an enhanced severance plan and healthcare benefits for the next 12 months, as well as job placement counseling and transition seminars.
- Barclays was the latest major banking institution to announce big layoffs, revealing its plans to cut 2,100 jobs in its retail and commercial banking units, adding to redundancies of the same size in its investment banking arms announced earlier in the year.
- Dutch financial services group ING said it will cut 750 U.S. jobs as part of a global program to cope with the economic slowdown.
- Software giant Oracle announced it will cut around 500 positions in its North American sales and consulting business. However, this is not as much as some people had speculated.
- Visteon said it cut salaries for about 2,000 white-collar employees by 20 percent at its facilities in Michigan and adopted a four-day workweek there for the month of January. Visteon will also suspend matching payments for 401K employee retirement plans and reduce new hiring, it said.
- U.S. manufacturer Cummins it would cut its global white-collar workforce by at least 800 and reduce its top executives' pay by 10 percent next year to save money during the deepening recession.
- LexmarkInternational announced that its fourth-quarter sales came in worse than expected,prompting a decision to cut 250 jobsand transfer roughly 125 more to lower-cost countries in the coming months.
- Drugstore operator Walgreen said it will cut 1,000 jobs by mid-year, or about 9 percent of corporate management, through a combination of voluntary buyouts and layoffs.
- Boeing , the world's second-largest airplane maker, plans to cut about 3 percent, or about 4,500 positisons, of its work force as a weakening global economy lowers demand for jetliners. Many of the cuts will be in areas not directly associated with aircraft production. This will be the company’s second round of layoffs after cutting 800 workers in November 2008.
- Cigna said it will cut about 1,100 jobs and consolidate some offices because of the flagging economy and won't give pay raises to salaried employees this year.
- Alcoa said it will eliminate 13,500 jobs, or 13 percent of its work force, in order to conserve cash and cut costs in the face of the global economic downturn.
- Schlumberger , the world's largest oilfield services provider, plans to shed 5 percent of its North American workforce, or 1,000 jobs, and is looking at cuts elsewhere, a spokesman said on Thursday.
- Oilfield service company Halliburton also confirmed it will begin laying off workers but hasn't said how many or when.
Sources: AP, Reuters, with CNBC.com staff.