Panasonic Cuts 15,000 Jobs; Global Layoffs

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

Stores have struggled financially because of poor retail sales in December and throughout the holidays. Other moves by the company include suspending senior salary increases, operating expenses and holding off on new store openings.

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.

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

Home Depot, Sprint and Caterpillar

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

"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.

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 said it would also institute a salary freeze for company officers.

READ: How to Bounce Back After Being Laid Off

Construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar said it would cut 20,000 jobs -- nearly 20 percent of its work force -- after reporting that its profits had fallen 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 last week 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."

Unemployment: The Worst Year Since '45

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 have also announced major layoffs: 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.

Microsoft

Microsoft said earlier this month 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.

"While we are not immune to the effects of the economy, I am confident in the strength of our product portfolio and soundness of our approach," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in a statement.

Employers shed 524,000 workers last month, according to the Department of Labor. Unemployment now stands at 7.2 percent, the highest since January 1993.

The losses make 2008 the worst year for layoffs since 1945, when 2.75 million jobs were lost. Granted, the U.S. workforce was smaller then, but it's still significant.

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