The number of people requesting first-time unemployment benefits dropped slightly last week, but remained near a 26-year high as companies lay off thousands of workers amid a deepening recession.
The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of initial jobless benefit claims dropped to a seasonally-adjusted 623,000, from an upwardly revised figure of 631,000 the previous week. The latest tally still was above analysts' expectations of 610,00 claims.
The 631,000 figure was the highest number of new jobless claims since October 1982, when the economy was emerging from a steep recession, though the labor force has grown by about half since then.
The four-week average of claims, which smooths out fluctuations, rose by 24,000 to 607,500, the first time that figure has topped 600,000 in the current recession.
Economists consider jobless claims a timely, if volatile, indicator of the health of the labor markets and broader economy. A year ago, initial claims stood at 339,000.
Here is a rundown of corporate job cuts announced so far this year:
- Pioneer said it is closing its television-making operations and plans to slash 10,000 jobs from its global workforce, as the economic slowdown batters the consumer electronics industry. The job cuts cover 6,000 staff positions—about 16 percent of the total—and 4,000 temporary positions.
- Auto parts maker BorgWarner said sharply lower global auto demand caused it to cut 4,400 jobs in the last six months—24 percent of its total workforce—and it posted a steep loss for the fourth quarter as industry-wide conditions worsened.
- U.S. heavy equipment maker Caterpillaroffered voluntary early retirement packages to about 2,000 production workers. The cuts are in addition to the 22,000 layoffs the company announced last month.
- Putnam Investments plans to cut 260 jobs, or 11 percent of its workforce, this week, becoming the latest money manager to trim staff.
- Starbucks said it issued more than 1,000 pink slips related to its newest round of job cuts.
- General Electric said it will cut 350 jobs and temporarily furlough 1,200 workers at its locomotive unit as production declines. The cutbacks affect about 14 percent of the 11,400 workers at GE Transportation, spokesman Stephan Koller said.
- Nike said it could cut up to four percent of its workforce to reduce costs as it restructures its business. Up to 1,400 jobs out of about 35,000 globally could be cut.
- Applied Materials , which plans to slash 1,800 jobs or 12 percent of its workforceby the end of the current fiscal year, has pushed aggressively into solar equipment to galvanize growth.
- Wal-Mart Stores is cutting 700 to 800 jobs at its Wal-Mart and Sam's Club home offices as the world's largest retailer looks to realign its corporate structure and reduce costs.
- General Motors says it is cutting 10,000 salaried jobs, blaming the need to restructure the company amid the continued drop in new vehicle sales.
- UBS said client withdrawals reversed in January, and that it would cut about 2,000 more jobs as it restructures to focus on wealth management. It also reported a fourth-quarter loss, the largest ever for a Swiss firm.
FedEx Freight, a unit of FedEx, said it will cut about 900 jobs at 130 facilities, citing unprecedented economic conditions and aggressive pricing by carriers.
- SolarWorld plans to cut 53 jobs at its Camarillo plant by March 6, according to the company's notification with the state Employment Development Department.
—Sources: AP, Reuters, with CNBC.com staff.