AFP - At least 85,000 new job cuts were announced in a single day Monday as the rampant financial crisis hit more workers across the globe and brought down Iceland's government.
In a sign of the deepening social impact of the crisis, companies announced an avalanche of cuts, piling pressure on US President Barack Obama as he pushes a stimulus plan for the world's biggest economy.
The job cuts came from some of the biggest US corporate names including Pfizer, General Motors, Caterpillar and Sprint Nextel, and news of additional downsizing came from Japanese automakers and Dutch bank ING.
"These are not just numbers on a page," Obama said as he pressed for urgent action on an 825-billion-dollar stimulus plan.
"As with the millions of jobs lost in 2008, these are working men and women whose families have been disrupted and whose dreams have been put on hold. We owe it to each of them and to every single American to act with a sense of urgency and common purpose. We can't afford distractions and we cannot afford delays."
The financial catastrophe also claimed a scalp as Iceland's Prime Minister Geir Haarde announced the resignation of his government after months of protests over economic policies that brought the country close to bankruptcy.
US construction equipment giant Caterpillar said it planned 20,000 job cuts worldwide to cope with plunging sales.
New York-based drug maker Pfizer announced it would acquire its rival Wyeth for 68 billion dollars, the largest pharmaceutical takeover deal in nearly a decade amid a dearth of corporate dealmaking due in part to a credit squeeze.
It said it would also cut its global workforce by around 10 percent -- meaning at least 8,000 posts cut in a company that currently employs almost 82,000 people in more than 150 countries.
General Motors announced plans Monday to cut 2,000 jobs at two US plants as it prepares to submit a long-term viability plan in exchange for billions in loans from the US government.
US telecom firm Sprint Nextel announced 8,000 cuts -- 14 percent of its staff -- and top US home improvement retailer Home Depot said it would cut 7,000.
Japan's top 12 automakers expect to cut a total of 25,000 jobs between now and the end of March, a survey by Jiji Press concluded on Monday.
Dutch banking and insurance group ING announced 7,000 job cuts and a deal for the Dutch state to guarantee billions of euros' worth of troubled assets.
Dutch electronics giant Philips said it would eliminate 6,000 jobs.
The announcements by the two Dutch companies came ahead of confirmation that Europe's second-biggest steelmaker, Indian-owned Corus, said it would cut more than 3,500 jobs around the world, most of them in Britain.
Workers arriving to their job early Monday were gloomy about their prospects.
"People feel gutted. I have already had to take a 10 percent pay cut," said 45-year-old Douglas Mayhill, a worker at a Corus plant in Port Talbot, southern Wales.
"I was told on Friday I have a choice -- either accept a 10 percent pay cut or take redundancy -- that is no choice."
In Washington, International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn said that Group of 20 major countries have made little progress in fighting the global financial crisis since their November summit.
"We gathered here in Washington and said we would recapitalize banks, disclose their losses, implement stimulus packages," Strauss-Kahn said.
"Very little has been done. I don't say nothing has been done, but it's moving very, very slowly."
The US Congress was meanwhile due to begin debate this week on Obama's stimulus bill, designed to haul the US economy out of a paralyzing recession.
In his first presidential radio address at the weekend, Obama raised the prospect of double-digit unemployment and a massive erosion of family incomes if Congress did not act on the bill.
In Ottawa, the Canadian government urged a divided parliament to unite behind its plan to stimulate an economy in recession, at the opening of a new legislative session.
"As Canadians expect, the economy will be the focus of our government's actions and of the measures placed before parliament during the coming year," said Governor General Michaelle Jean in a throne speech outlining the administration's agenda for the coming months.
"Canadians face a difficult year -- perhaps several difficult years," she said.