NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The final week of January began with a bloodbath for the job market, as over 71,400 more cuts were announced on Monday alone.
At least six companies from manufacturing and service industries announced cost-cutting initiatives that included slashing thousands of jobs.
More than 200,000 job cuts have been announced so far this year, according to company reports. Nearly 2.6 million jobs were lost over 2008, the highest yearly job-loss total since 1945.
"It's all about the consumer, and the consumer's been hit hard," said Robert Brusca, chief economist at Fact and Opinion Economics. "It's a vicious circle as weakness begets layoffs, which beget more spending weakness."
Construction machinery manufacturer Caterpillar (CAT, Fortune 500) said Monday it will cut 20,000 jobs amid a "very challenging global business environment." The company had already planned to cut 15,000 workers since the fourth quarter of 2008, but added another 5,000, bringing the total to 20,000.
Pfizer (PFE, Fortune 500) said in an earnings report it would cut 10% of its staff of 81,900 and close five of its manufacturing plants. And a second round of cuts will shed about 15% of employees from the combined Pfizer/Wyeth staff of 120,000. That makes a total of 26,000 jobs lost. The company already cut 4,700 jobs in 2008.
Sprint Nextel Corp. (S, Fortune 500) will cut a total of about 8,000 jobs by March 31, the company said in a release. The telecommunications company's plan is to reduce internal and external labor costs by about $1.2 billion on an annual basis.
Home Depot (HD, Fortune 500), the world's largest home improvement retailer, announced Monday it will eliminate its EXPO design center business and cut 7,000 associates, or approximately 2% of the company's total workforce. The company blamed a lack of demand for big ticket design and decor projects.
Texas Instruments (TXN, Fortune 500) said it will slash its workforce by 3,400 employees to cope with weak demand and the slowing economy. More than half of those cuts will be layoffs while "voluntary retirements and departures" will make up the rest.
Dutch financial group ING said Monday it will take a 2008 loss of $1.3 billion and cut 7,000 jobs. The company could not comment on where the cuts would take place. ING employs around 130,000 people across 50 countries.
Deere& Co. (DE, Fortune 500) , the world's top farm-equipment maker, said it would cut nearly 700 jobs between factories in Brazil and Iowa.
The job cuts across sectors didn't surprise Brusca, as nearly all are weak, he said.
"The services sector is shedding jobs at a horrific pace, because that's where most of the jobs are," Brusca said. "When the consumer is in tough shape it's hard for business to do well, because it all depends on consumption or investments."
Continuing the scary trend
The cuts mark a horrific start to the week, and a brutal start to 2009. In the previous week, around 40,000 cuts were announced across multiple industries.
Wednesday, in particular, was littered with a slew of job cuts: BHP Billiton, Clear Channel Communications, Intel, Rohm and Haas Co., UAL Corp. and Williams-Sonoma all announced job cuts totaling over 27,000 positions.
Schlumberger said Friday that it will cut 5,000 jobs worldwide, with 1,000 of the cuts taking place in North America.
Also last week, Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. Entertainment said it would cut about 800 jobs, or 10% of its worldwide staff in the upcoming weeks, while Microsoft unveiled its plan to cut up to 5,000 jobs - 5.5% of its global workforce.
Outlook: A recovery in sight?
Brusca said he agreed with many economists' predictions that the recession will end after the second quarter of 2009. Americans might feel the job market start to bounce back a bit sooner than expected, he said.
"These recessions are like geometry," Brusca said. "It looks like we'll have a V-shaped cycle, in that we're going into this with very sharp losses. This intense-phase recession will probably recover fairly quickly, with the job market coming out it at the same angle it came in."
In the short term, the economy and the job market are in trouble, Brusca said. But "it doesn't look like the bottom is falling out of the economy," he said.
And there's a silver lining to the gloomy clouds over America's economy.
"The good news is it's so bad right now that we will have a definite, noticeable recovery when it comes," Brusca said. "We're getting a lot of adjustment out of the way early."