Microsoft Shows It Isn't Recession-Proof

Actress Judy Davis attends the 2003 TCA Press Tour on January 8, 2003 in Hollywood, California. GETTY IMAGES/Frederick M. Brown

Microsoft Corp. said Thursday it is cutting 5,000 jobs over the next 18 months, a sign of how badly even the biggest and richest companies are being stung by the recession.

The layoffs appear to be a first for Microsoft, which was founded in 1975, aside from relatively limited staff cuts the software company made after acquiring companies.

The move comes as the Labor Department reported that initial jobless benefit claims rose to a seasonally adjusted 589,000 in the week ending Jan. 17, from an upwardly revised figure of 527,000 the previous week. The latest tally was well above Wall Street economists' expectations of 540,000 new claims.

The company announced the cuts as it reported an 11 percent drop in second-quarter profit, which fell short of Wall Street's expectations. Microsoft shares plunged 7 percent in morning trading.

Microsoft said it was being hurt by deteriorating global economic conditions and lower revenue from software for PCs. The holiday quarter of 2008 was the worst the PC market had seen in several years.

The Redmond-based company said profit fell to $4.17 billion, or 47 cents per share, from year-ago earnings of $4.71 billion, or 50 cents per share.

Total revenue edged up 2 percent to $16.63 billion, as software for corporate computer servers helped offset an 8 percent drop in revenue for PC software.

The results missed Wall Street's forecast for earnings of 49 cents per share on sales of $17.08 billion.

Microsoft said the job cuts will reduce operating costs by $1.5 billion as it prepares for lower revenue and earnings in the second half of the year. The company says it is unable to offer profit and revenue guidance for the rest of the year, because of the market volatility.

Its shares fell $1.34 to $18.04 in morning trading.
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