Amid an avalanche of layoffs in some sectors of the U.S. job market, particularly across technology, retail, and finance sectors, technology giant IBM announced Wednesday that it would cut 1.5% of its workforce.
The news comes days after Swedish music streaming platform Spotify announced Monday that it would cut 6% of its global workforce, and Google’s parent company Alphabet said on Jan. 20 that it would lose 12,000 jobs.
The Google layoffs are the company’s largest ever, accounting for 6% of the company’s global personnel, and comes after a decision to defer a portion of employees’ January bonuses to be paid later in the year. Sundar Pichai, Alphabet’s chief executive, shared a memo on Friday via the company’s website citing ill-hiring decisions over the past two years, which aimed to “match periods of dramatic growth.” He said, “To match and fuel that growth, we hired for a different economic reality than the one we face today.”
His memo added that domestic employees would receive a severance package worth 16 weeks of salary and two weeks off additional pay for every year served, as well as six months worth of healthcare and immigration support. Meanwhile, employees outside the U.S. will be supported “in line with local practices.”
Spotify and Alphabet’s announcements build on the overall 6% increase in job cuts recorded in the U.S. during 2022, and places the companies among a growing number of technology giants resorting to layoffs—including Amazon, Microsoft, and Meta—that experts say were driven by misjudging pandemic booms for sustainable growth. This resulted in over 154,843 jobs being cut by technology firms last year, according to Layoffs.fyi, a website that tracks job cuts across the industry. So far, in 2023, an additional 55,970 employees have been laid off by technology firms.
“In 2020 and 2021, technology companies went on a hiring spree, fueled by low interest rates and demand for tech products while people were staying at home during the pandemic,” Roger Lee, the creator of Layoffs.fyi, tells TIME. “Now that we’re in a completely opposite environment, these same tech companies are performing layoffs to undo their overhiring from the past couple of years.”
John Van Reenen, the Ronald Coase School Professor at the London School of Economics, reiterates that the “general economic situation” is one of the key driving forces behind major layoffs.
“With the war in Ukraine and all the world in, or entering into recession, their companies are trenching as demand is falling, belt tightening is going on,” he says. “One part of this is just a general reflection of what’s happening in the economic situation around the world.”
Van Reenen notes that the share prices of tech firms over the last year have all “taken quite a significant hit” and mass layoffs reflect company’s attempts to regain control of this.
While the technology industry remains the hardest hit, Lee says, other industries have also announced sizable layoffs. Below are some of the largest employee layoffs that have taken place in 2023 so far.
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In early January, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy revealed that the company was cutting 18,000 jobs, including layoffs in November. The cuts are less than 1% of the global workforce, but would amount to about 6% of corporate jobs. Sizable cuts were first proposed in November and, according to reports from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, at the time, the company estimated that they would eliminate 10,000 posts.
According to the New York Times, an anonymous source in Amazon’s Human Resources department said the number of layoffs was fluid and could be changed once business plans were finalized. Spurred on by pandemic success, the company’s global workforce grew exponentially from 798,000 in the final quarter of 2019 to 1.6 million by the end of 2021.
On Jan. 18, Microsoft announced plans to eliminate 10,000 jobs, or around 4.5% of its 220,000 person global workforce. The software company’s chief executive officer, Satya Nadella, wrote in a blog post that the software titan, which has a market value of $1.78 trillion, was affected by global economic stagnation.
Salesforce announced in early January that it planned to lay off 10% of its 80,000 person workforce, or around 8,000 individuals. “The environment remains challenging, and our customers are taking a more measured approach to their purchasing decisions,” Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said in a memo to employees. (Benioff is TIME’s owner and co-chair.)
International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) announced thousands of layoffs Wednesday, noting that they were related to a previously announced spinoff and sale of two business units. The technology corporation cited a “ballpark” figure of 3,900 job losses, or 1.5% of its workforce, chief financial officer James Kavanaugh said Wednesday in an interview.
The units affected are Kyndryl, an IT infrastructure services business that officially separated from IBM in November, and Watson Health, its healthcare analytics business, which is currently being sold to an investment firm.
The cuts are set to cost the firm about $300 million but Kavanaugh said that IBM will still hire in “higher-growth areas.”
Away from technology, Goldman Sachs announced Tuesday that it will spend $275 million on the 3,200 job cuts announced in January. David Solomon, the bank’s chief executive said “we feel deeply for the individuals that were impacted by these reductions” and that they were “extremely dedicated and talented individuals.” The news marked the bank’s largest staff reduction since the 2008 financial crisis, when they recorded the same number of layoffs.
Europe’s largest software company SAP is set to cull up to 2.5% of its global workforce, or around 3,000 employees, in a restructuring that will cost between €250 million ($272 million) and €300 million, according to an earnings report published Thursday.
“We are further focusing our portfolio in areas where we are strongest to continue our accelerated growth,” said Christian Klein, the CEO of SAP, during the company’s fourth-quarter 2022 earnings call.
In a live streamed press briefing, Klein elaborated that the cuts were “targeted” and would enable the company to invest in areas “where it really matters for SAP to be competitive in the future,” notably its cloud business. While it is currently unclear what proportion of the cuts will affect U.S. roles, the company said most of the layoffs will be outside of its operating base in Germany.
The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation
On Jan. 13, Reuters reported that the Bank of New York Mellon Corp (BK.N) is planning to cut around 3% of its workforce in the year ahead. Approximately 1,500 jobs of the bank’s total reported headcount, which was 51,700 at the end of 2022, will be cut. The announcement brought company shares up by 2.4% at the time, as high interest rates and inflation continue to shake the financial services industry.
Meanwhile, 950 employees lost their jobs at Coinbase, according to a Jan. 10 announcement by the cryptocurrency exchange platform. This makes up 20% of the company’s workforce as they aim to cut operating expenses by 25%. This is a second round of layoffs for Coinbase, who let 18% of its workforce go in June.
The world’s largest asset management company, BlackRock Inc., cut 500 global jobs as the result of a $91 million restructuring at the end of 2022. Last year’s full-year revenue was down 8% to $17.9 billion and earnings per share was down 16% year over year to $8.93. The company’s stocks also fell by the highest amount since the 2008 crisis.
BlackRock had 19,900 employees as of Sept. 30, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Per Reuters, layoffs will affect less than 3% of employees.
The Swedish music streaming giant said Jan. 23 that it would cut 6% of its global workforce, estimated to be around 400 employees, as part of a management reshuffle. CEO Daniel Ek said the cuts were part of a management reshuffle and “to bring our costs more in line.” Spotify’s operating costs were double its revenue growth last year.
American video hosting platform Vimeo also launched a round of layoffs at the very start of the year. In a note to staff that was later shared online, CEO Anjali Sud said the layoffs would affect 11% of the company’s workforce, across departments like sales and research and development. Vimeo reported 1,219 workers in its December 2021 annual regulatory filing.
In November 2022, Vimeo reported $108.1 million in revenue during the third quarter and roughly 1.6 million paying subscribers. Sud said the decision was the “right thing to do to enable Vimeo to be a more focused and successful company, operating with the necessary discipline in an uncertain economic environment.”
Bed Bath & Beyond
Retail chain Bed Bath & Beyond is particularly affected by the economic downturn, as it seeks buyers or lenders to avoid bankruptcy. In a bid to cut costs due to depleting sales figures, the retailer said on Jan. 18 that it would slash an additional $80 million to $100 million across the company, including an unspecified number of layoffs. The company’s shares are down by more than 72% over the past 12 months.
Sales dropped by 33% to $1.26 billion for the three months ending Nov. 26 from $1.88 billion the previous year. Additionally, sales recorded in stores that have existed for at least a year dropped by 32%. The company previously announced in September that they would close 150 stories and cut 20% of its workforce to save money.
Will these layoffs continue in the long term?
Despite the alarming increase in job losses across these sectors, Van Reenen is hopeful that they are temporary. “The U.S. economy has been quite resilient compared to expectations. The labor markets held up reasonably well and inflation is coming down much faster in the U.S. than it is in Europe,” he says.
But stability remains uncertain due to global factors, he says, noting the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, and China’s influence over the supply chain—especially as the nation battles mounting COVID-19 cases and a lack of medication.
As for the blows technology firms have incurred, Van Reenen believes that in the long run, “the whole world economy is becoming more high-tech and using more AI so the long term prospects of companies like Alphabet are optimistic. But in the short term there’s gonna be bumps on that road.”
Correction, Jan. 20
The original version of this article misstated the portion of Amazon’s workforce that was laid off. It was less than 1% of the global workforce, not 5%.
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