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Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Over 90,000 jobs lost

WASHINGTON: - A staggering 90,000 layoffs were announced over the past two days as major companies in the United States and elsewhere reeled from the effects of dwindling demand in the economic downturn.
On a day being called 'Bloody Monday', several major firms announced the job cuts - the largest culls in a single day ever.

The shedding continued yesterday. Corning alone said that it would trim its payrolls by nearly 5,000 as demand dried up for the speciality glass it produces for flat-panel TV and computer screen makers.

Grim news poured in from other corners of the world too.

In Japan, electronics maker NEC Tokin said it would slash 9,450 jobs as the government outlined a plan to inject state money into ailing companies in exchange for equity stakes. The move echoes the partial nationalisation of some troubled financial firms in the US and Europe.

In Rome, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne warned that Italy's auto sector could shed 60,000 jobs.

In Iceland, the Prime Minister himself was out of a job. Mr Geir Haarde resigned on Monday, becoming the first leader to fall as a direct result of the global economic crisis.

Other victims on Monday included the world's largest maker of construction and mining machinery. Caterpillar announced 20,000 job cuts as its profits plunged.

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer shed 26,000 jobs as America's No. 3 wireless provider, Sprint Nextel, budgeted for 8,000 cuts.

Home Depot, hurt by the housing downturn, announced 7,000 positions would be closed. At Philips Electronics, the casualties stood at 6,000.

So far, 22 of the 30 companies that are part of the Dow Jones industrial average have announced job cuts since the economy went into turmoil in October.

Yet the worst may be yet to come. A new survey released by the National Association for Business Economics shows the worst business conditions in more than a quarter century and the likelihood of many more job losses this year.

As the gloom spread, President Barack Obama began an urgent charm offensive aimed at persuading Congress to support his US$825 billion (S$1.24 trillion) stimulus package. It contains measures to save or create three to four million jobs.

'We cannot lose a day, because every day the economic picture is darkening, here and across the globe,' he said as Mr Timothy Geithner was sworn in as Treasury Secretary on Monday.

Mr Geithner faced considerable opposition to his candidacy. More than a third of the Senate railed against him in a 60-34 vote, objecting to the fact that he had failed to pay some income taxes in time while he worked for the International Monetary Fund some years ago.

Although there is near unanimity among lawmakers, economists and the public that urgent and sizeable action is required to revive the US economy, serious rifts have opened in how to structure Mr Obama's economic package.

Two-thirds of the stimulus involves public spending while a third goes towards tax cuts.

Congressional Republicans want a higher tax component, arguing that would be a quicker and surer way to spur entrepreneurial activity.

Allaying another concern surrounding the spending of US$700 billion in bailout funds for the financial sector, Mr Geithner announced a crackdown on lobbyists seeking funds from the government on his first day as Treasury Secretary.

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