Markets in Chaos. Companies Firing People Who Don't Even Work for Them

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As the Dow Jones Industrial Average went negative again for 2011 and the S&P 500 plunged 31 points, companies scrambled to cut back and dig in. The Department of Labor released data Friday showing that nobody went to work in August.

"The only growth now is in Hugo Chavez" breathed one exhausted trader.

Major U.S. firms are reacting to the slowdown with indiscriminate layoffs.

"I don't relish making these calls" said Carolyn Mercer at General Electric Company (NYSE:GE). "They gave me a phone book and said 'start firing people.'"

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange liquidated positions throughout the afternoon, finally abandoning phones and watches for ready cash.