The recession is taking a harsh toll on corporate America as companies continue to scale down their operations and lay off workers in response to reduced profits.
Harley-Davidson on Friday became the latest U.S. corporate icon to announce lower profits and job cuts. The Milwaukee, Wis.-based motorcycle manufacturer said it will reduce its operations and cut 1,100 jobs over the next two years, though 70 percent of the layoffs are expected this year.
Harley-Davidson said its fourth-quarter earnings dropped 58 percent, to $77.8 million, from the same period a year earlier. Sales fell 6.8 percent to $1.29 billion. The company's net income for 2008 was $654.7 million, down from $933.8 million a year earlier.
The Harley layoffs come on the heels of staff reductions announced earlier this week by both Microsoft and IBM. On Thursday, Microsoft said it would cut 5,000 jobs over the next 18 months. On Tuesday, IBM reported a 12 percent increase in earnings for the fourth quarter of 2008 compared with the same period in 2007. But the next day, the company began to lay off workers in what union officials estimate will amount to 2,900 job cuts.
General Electric announced Friday that fourth-quarter earnings fell 46 percent. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Immelt said that he expects 2009 to be "extremely difficult" for the company.
Xerox on Friday said its earnings plunged to $1 million in the fourth quarter from $382 million a year earlier.
Google posted a 68 percent drop in profit for the fourth quarter — the Internet search giant's first-ever quarterly decline. But the drop was less than expected by analysts. Revenue climbed 18 percent to $5.7 billion. That marked the first time Google's revenue growth had fallen below 30 percent from the previous year.
Although he hailed his company's strength in a decrepit economy, Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt called the upcoming months "uncharted territory."
President Barack Obama hopes to lift the economy out of recession by implementing a massive fiscal stimulus package. He urged lawmakers from both parties Friday to back his plan, saying the economy's dire problems require congressional action even if some members object to portions of the plan.
"I know that it is a heavy lift to do something as substantial as we're doing right now," Obama said as he sat down with House and Senate leaders from both parties in the White House's Roosevelt Room. Republican members, especially, have objected to some of the $825 billion plan.
From NPR staff and wire reports