U.S. Companies Slash More Than 45,000 Jobs

Equipment manufacturer and exporter Caterpillar announced Monday’s largest jobs cuts, totaling 20,000 workers or about 18 percent of its work force.

Sprint Nextel announced cuts of 8,000 jobs in the first quarter, about 14 percent of its workforce, and Home Depot will lose 7,000 jobs, cutting about 2 percent of its associates. Floundering automaker General Motors Corp. said it would slash 2,000 jobs at plants in Michigan and Ohio as well.

Pfizer’s acquisition of drug company Wyeth will also result in a loss of 8,000 jobs as the companies consolidate and eliminate overlap.

U.S. unemployment stands at 7.2 percent, but in President Barack Obama’s first radio address this week he echoed economists concerns that the number could soon be in the double digits.

President Obama told reporters Monday that the government must act on an economic recovery package with a “sense of urgency,” and referenced the recent job cuts.

“These are not just numbers on a page,” Mr. Obama said. “As with the millions of jobs lost in 2008, these are working men and women whose families have been disrupted and whose dreams have been put on hold.”

He urged swift action, warning “a bad situation could become dramatically worse.”

The U.S. Congress will begin debating Obama’s $825 billion stimulus bill this week. Senate committees are scheduled to look at it Tuesday and the full House is expected to vote on its version on Wednesday.

International companies also took hits Monday, with Dutch banking and insurance group ING announcing 7,000 job cuts, the departure of its chief executive and a deal for the Dutch state to assume 80 percent of the risk on portfolio of troubled assets.

The steelmaking company, Corus, said it is cutting about 3,500 jobs worldwide, mostly in Britain, the BBC reported.

Dutch electronics giant Philips also reported bad news, saying it will eliminate 6,000 jobs to cut costs. The company had a net loss of $242 million for 2008 after an adjusted valuation of its Lumileds diode light unit posted a large loss in the fourth quarter.

A survey of Japan’s top 12 automakers released Monday reported that they expect to cut a total of 25,000 jobs between now and the end of March, the Agence France-Presse reported.