One month into 2009, job cuts by corporations have become a major news story around the world. In one week alone, almost 100,000 jobs were eliminated. These included 20,000 layoffs at NEC, 19,500 at Pfizer, 15,000 at Metro, 10,000 at Boeing and 8,000 at Sprint Nextel. Thousands more from Starbucks, Ericsson, Kodak, Philips, Microsoft, Caterpillar, Home Depot and others added to the total. According to an estimate by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, layoffs in January totaled 241,749, up 45% from December and the highest monthly number in seven years. In response to this situation, U.S. President Barack Obama pushed even harder for passage of an $819 billion economic stimulus plan. "The most important number for this recovery plan is how many jobs it produces," said Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff, "not how many votes it gets."
Unfortunately, more cuts are probably on the way, according to economists watching the situation. "From what we are seeing, the fourth quarter was breathtakingly weak for companies,' says Christopher Portman, a senior economist at Oxford Economics, which builds macroeconomic models for banks and governments around the world. "In terms of the global economy, 2009 will be the worst year since World War II and even since the 1930s. I don't know that the job losses we have seen so far show the full picture. Unemployment does lag [behind other indicators of economic performance], and even after we hit the bottom of this downturn, the job loss numbers will continue to rise.'
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