(HPQ) - Get Report

was busy

turning Wall Street's stomach,


(IBM) - Get Report

announced Thursday that it would beef up hiring and expects to end the year with its biggest workforce since 1991.

IBM now forecasts it will hire 18,800 new employees worldwide in 2004, excluding acquisitions. That's up 88% from its previous plans earlier this year to hire 10,000 employees in 2004.

About one-third of the jobs will be in North America and about two-thirds of the jobs will be in IBM's global services and business consulting services division, working on such growth opportunities as Linux and grid computing, the tech giant said.

IBM plans to end the year with more than 330,000 employees, the largest number since 1991.

Perhaps not coincidentally, IBM disclosed its hiring plans after H-P's early morning announcement Thursday that it would miss third- and fourth-quarter earnings estimates because of problems in its server and storage division.

Shares of IBM recently fell $1.21, or 1.5%, to $82.48. Shares of H-P recently plummeted $3.31, or 17%, to $16.21.