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Google has admitted it’s not immune to the brown shoots of deterioration strangling the world economy – the internet giant plans to axe 100 staff in its recruiting division, shuffle its engineers around and axe some products.

It said yesterday that it had “with great regret” decided to lay off 100 of its recruiters.

Having cut back “almost all” the contractors the company had on its books meant that its HR unit was left with little work to do. The firm said it is still hiring but at a reduced rate.

“As we made clear during our last quarterly earnings call in October, Google is still hiring but at a reduced rate,” said Google people ops veep Laszlo Bock in the blog posting. “Given the state of the economy, we recognised that we needed fewer people focused on hiring.”

Just last week a US Securities and Exchange Commission filing revealed that Mountain View quietly got rid of a still unknown number of contract workers late last year.

Many have speculated that more than 6,000 contractors were shown the door, but Google has declined to comment on the exact figure.

The firm has also made changes to its engineering unit by closing offices in Austin, Texas; Trondheim, Norway; and Lulea, Sweden. Google has told around 70 of its engineers to move to other offices, but admitted some may be forced to quit.

“We do recognise the upheaval and heartache that these changes may have on Google families, and that we may not be able to keep 100 per cent of these exceptional employees,” said senior engineering and research veep Alan Eustace.

Google also announced yesterday that it is killing, halting development on, or curtailing access to six products, presumably in yet another cost-cutting exercise at Mountain View.

It will terminate the now largely irrelevant Google Catalog Search. The ability for users to upload to Google Video will be switched off in a few months from now. Developers will no longer be able to fiddle with Google Notebook: it remains effectively on death row.

Google is dropping Twitter rival Dodgeball, the company it acquired in 2005. And the web kingpin’s Mashup Editor that never made it out of private beta will also be killed off.

Jaiku, another Web 2.0 contender pretender swallowed by Google in 2007, will have some elements folded into the Google App Engine, which will be released as open source. ®

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