Target Among the Latest Chain of Grim Layoffs

Target Corp., the popular discount retailer, is one of the latest chains to announce major layoffs. Target plans to reduce staff at its Minnesota headquarters, including approximately 600 employees and 400 open positions primarily in the Twin Cities area. Later in the year, the company plans to close its Little Rock, Ark., distribution center, which currently staffs 500 employees.

In a statement to Reuters, the company attributed the weakening economy as the main reason for cutting jobs.

Stores have struggled financially due to low retail sales in December and throughout the holidays. Other financial actions by the company include suspending senior salary increases, operating expenses and holding off on new store openings.

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Besides general merchandise, the discounter also sells food and operates a co-branded credit card partnership with Visa. According to the company's October 2008 corporate report, Target maintains about 1,685 stores across 48 states. Soon after the company released its press statement, Target shares closed up 19 cents at $33.34 per share on the New York Stock Exchange today.

Several major U.S. and foreign companies announced thousands of new layoffs in the past few weeks as they work to adjust to new economic realities.

"Labor reductions are always the most difficult action to take, but many companies are finding it necessary in this environment," Sprint Nextel CEO Dan Hesse said in a statement.

Sprint Nextel, the nation's third largest wireless carrier, will cut 8,000 jobs by the end of March, about 13 percent of its work force.

Home Depot, Sprint and Caterpillar

Sprint was one of at least four large U.S.-based companies announcing large-scale job cuts. Pfizer, which is buying rival pharmaceutical giant Wyeth for $68 billion, is planning to cut 8,000 jobs, or about 2 percent of its work force.

The closure of Home Depot's high-end EXPO stores, meanwhile, will affect 7,000 employees, or 2 percent of the company's work force. In addition, Home Depot today said it would also institute a salary freeze for company officers.

Construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar said it would cut 20,000 jobs -- nearly 20 percent of its workforce -- after reporting that its profits fell 32 percent. The company said the job cuts were designed to help "deliver our 'trough' profit target" of $40 billion in sales and revenues.

President Obama said today in his speech on fuel-efficiency standards that layoffs at Caterpillar, Home Depot, Sprint Nextel and elsewhere "are not just numbers on a page."

"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 said. "We owe it to each of them and to every single American to act with a sense of urgency and common purpose."

Obama said he looked forward to signing a stimulus plan "that will put millions of Americans to work."

Well-known companies headquartered in the Netherlands also announced major layoffs today: financial services company ING said it would cut 7,000 jobs while Phillips Electronics plans to cut 6,000. Both companies employ people in the United States.

The Worst Year Since '45

Last week, Microsoft said it would slash 5,000 jobs in the next 18 months. It seems that even the once-mighty tech sector isn't immune from the recession.

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