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Pfizer Cutting 2,000 Sales Jobs in the U.S.

JOHN YDSTIE, host:

The business news starts with layoffs in the pharmaceutical industry.

(Soundbite of music)

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YDSTIE: Giant drug maker Pfizer is cutting 20 percent of its U.S. sales force. That's roughly 2,200 jobs by the end of the year. Pfizer says the cuts are a part of a review of its overall operations. NPR's Jack Speer reports.

JACK SPEER: The announcement from Pfizer comes at a time the company's stock has been languishing, and it's having a difficult time launching new drugs. Paul Fitzhenry is a Pfizer spokesman. He says the cuts are the first salvo in what will be a larger global realignment.

Mr. PAUL FITZHENRY (Pfizer Spokesman): The step we're taking is the first major structural announcement that we've made in terms of our cost reduction initiative. We are looking at our operations around the world, where we employ approximately 100,000 people.

SPEER: Analysts who follow the pharmaceutical industry say the U.S. job cuts are coming at all levels of the sales force, and are probably overdue. Jaime Ruben(ph) is a managing director with Morgan Stanley.

Ms. JAIME RUBEN (Managing Director, Morgan Stanley): They are too many reps, revenues for the industry have slowed down. You know, we're seeing some signs of new product visibility, but certainly not enough to justify the size of the sales force.

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SPEER: And Ruben says Pfizer's action is likely to prompt other pharmaceutical firms to make similar moves.

Ms. RUBEN: I've heard many CEOs say, you know, we'd love to cut our sales force, but we're in an arms race and we're waiting for Pfizer - because they're the biggest of the companies - to take the first move.

SPEER: Pfizer officials would not say how much money the company expects to save from the job cuts. Previously, Pfizer has said it's looking for $4 billion a year in annual cost savings by 2008.

Jack Speer, NPR News, Washington.

YDSTIE: Thousands of workers will soon leave another major U.S. corporation. Ford motor company says 38,000 of its unionized workers have decided to take buyout or early retirement packages. The auto company is struggling with falling demand and offered the buyouts as a way to shrink production and reduce its debt. The departing employees represent nearly 46 percent of the company's unionized workforce. They'll start leaving the company in January. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.