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Coffee as an economic indicator…

This morning, there’s lots of buzz — unassisted by caffeine — over the fight over Diedrich Coffee (DDRX) which Peet’s (PEET) agreed to buy at the beginning of this month for $26 a share, but is now offering $32 a share after rival Green Mountain Coffee (GMCR) offered to buy Diedrich for $30 a share. The WSJ has a good summary here.

Talk about propitious timing because we had planned to write about coffee anyway this morning since coffee kingpin Starbucks (SBUX) filed its 10-K late Friday. The filing had a number of things that caught our attention, but the thing that really jumped out at us was how many fewer people Starbucks employed this year as compared with last year: a whopping 34,000. As the filing notes, the bulk of those job losses — 32,000 or 94% — were in the United States. Most of this shouldn’t be all that surprising, given Starbucks well-publicized restructuring and the $53.2 million restructuring charge the company took during the fourth quarter.

Still, given the current state of the economy, jobs at Starbucks, which famously offer health benefits, aren’t just for unemployed actors any more. I’ve personally known a few people, who, facing a prolonged job loss and hefty insurance payments, have chosen to work there. But if Starbucks is no longer an option due to its restructuring, what’s left? Whole Foods (WFMI)? Or, maybe Diedrich’s if the war over who will acquire them continues to heat up? After all, options there are suddenly a lot more valuable these days!