Update: Microsoft confirmed this morning that it will trim 5000 jobs over the next 18 months. See Paul Thurrott's latest report on the layoffs here, and the official Microsoft news release about the cuts here.

Microsoft is slated to reveal their second quarter earnings on the afternoon of Thursday, January 22nd. Rumors have been circulating for weeks about the possibility of job cuts at the Redmond software giant, and some observers are predicting that Microsoft's earnings report will serve as the venue for any layoff announcements to be made.

Part of the rumor-mongering can be traced to the Mini-Microsoft blog, which posted some speculation about curious meetings and other goings-on at Microsoft in late December. The most recent post mentions a Microsoft town hall meeting on Friday, with the blogger expressing hope that the combination of the earnings report and the Friday employee meeting will put an end to the "fear, uncertainty, and doubt stirred up to a crescendo as of late." Our own Paul Thurrott has written about the layoff rumors here.

Joseph Tartakoff over at the Seattle PI suggests that we can "expect clarity on Thursday afternoon", which will be sometime after Microsoft announces its FY09 earnings. Citigroup analyst Brent Thill is quoted in a recent AP story suggesting that the layoff rumors are false, while David Kaplan at paidContent.org quoted another analyst who suggested that Microsoft will cut "6 percent to 8 percent of its 95,000 workforce."

Microsoft hasn't publicly commented on the hearsay and speculation, but the earnings report (slated for 2:30pm PST) should hopefully put those rumors to rest. We'll post any news as it crosses the wire on Thursday.