74,000 Job Cuts Announced. | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

74,000 Job Cuts Announced.

Caterpillar Inc., Sprint Nextel Corp. and Home Depot Inc. led companies today announcing at least 72,500 job cuts as sales withered and construction slowed amid a global economic recession that may persist through 2009.

The biggest layoffs were at Peoria, Illinois-based Caterpillar. The world’s largest maker of construction equipment said it’s cutting 20,000 jobs after fourth-quarter profit fell by almost a third.

Pfizer Inc., the New York-based drugmaker that’s acquiring competitor Wyeth for $68 billion, said it will close five factories and eliminate 19,000 jobs, or 15 percent, of the combined company’s workforce.

The firings came as American jobless claims hit a 26-year high, reaching 589,000 in the week ended Jan. 17, as shrinking demand for products and services forced companies to lower costs.

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