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Microsoft Corp. will cut 5,000 jobs over the next 18 months in what are thought to be the first layoffs in the software giant's 34-year history, the Redmond, Wash., company announced Thursday. The day before, Intel Corp., the world's largest maker of microprocessors used in personal computers, said it will close the Silicon Valley plant connected to its headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., and cut 6,000 jobs, some overseas.

New-home construction fell 15.5 percent between November and December, capping the worst year for builders on records that date from 1959, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

Patti Blagojevich, the wife of impeached Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, has been dropped as chief fundraiser of the Chicago Christian Industrial League, a homeless agency. The organization did not explain why it had exercised a termination clause in Mrs. Blagojevich's $100,000-a-year contract. A licensed real estate broker, she has not been charged with any wrongdoing but was secretly recorded using coarse language in a wire-tapped telephone conversation.

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