Visualizing Tech Company Layoffs in 2022
Visualizing Tech Company Layoffs in 2022
Layoffs are happening so frequently in 2022 that everyone from Crunchbase to Indian tech website Inc42 are now keeping track.
There is even a standalone website tracking all tech layoffs in the United States.
For the purposes of this infographic, we’ve used data from trueup.io which includes a mix of U.S. and international tech companies that have let workers go in 2022.
A Thousand Cuts: Mass Layoffs by Tech Companies
Layoffs are having an impact on the entire tech industry, and the phenomenon is global. Here are some of the most high-profile examples of mass layoffs in 2022:
Meta: The social media giant faces competition from upstarts like TikTok, as well as a pool of ad dollars that is shrinking in the face of a faltering economy. Although this reduction in headcount is painful for Meta, it’s worth considering a more broad perspective. In close to two decades of doing business, these will be the company’s first wide-scale job cuts.
Twitter: Though Meta wins with sheer volume of cuts, Twitter’s mass layoffs are surely the most dramatic. In early November, the company’s iconoclastic new owner, Elon Musk, slashed 50% of the workforce, and soon after, thousands of contractors also suddenly lost their jobs. Estimating how many employees remain at the company will remain a challenge until the dust settles.
Byju’s: Layoffs are not just confined to the United States. India’s sizable tech sector is also facing cuts. EdTech giant, Byju’s, laid off 2,500 employees in October—around 5% of its total workforce.
Peloton: The high-end workout equipment company has been dropping its headcount throughout the year. In the visualization above, companies like Meta stand out as they eliminated thousands of employees all at once. Peloton, however, executed its layoffs in stages throughout the year. After strong growth during the pandemic began to stagnate, the company is slimming down to regain profitability.
Why are Tech Companies Laying Off so Many People?
The stated reasons for letting so many workers go are economic uncertainty (external factors) and poor performance (internal factors).
Goldman Sachs Research points out that “higher interest rates and tighter financial conditions disproportionately impact the sector because tech company profits are typically expected further out in the future and therefore subject to greater duration risk.”
Shrinking advertising budgets and the implosion of the cryptocurrency market are also factors that may have influenced the decision to cut headcounts. Twitter and Snapchat fall into the former bucket, while Coinbase and Kraken fall into the latter.
What Do These Job Cuts Mean for the Economy?
At face value, widespread layoffs in the tech sector might appear to be a bad omen for the wider economy—especially given the outsize influence tech companies have on the markets.
Thankfully, this does not appear to be the case. Payroll and wage data from the U.S. government have exceeded expectations, and the country’s unemployment rate is close to a half-century low.
So, why the disconnect?
First off, tech jobs only account for less than 3% of total employment in America. As well, tech workers who’ve lost their jobs have a high likelihood of securing a new job in short order.
It remains to be seen whether November will be the peak of job cuts. Employers generally try to avoid letting people go right before the holiday season. One week into December, Trueup.io has tracked 7,600 more layoffs.
Visualizing the Link Between Unemployment and Recessions
This infographic examines 50 years of data to highlight a clear visual trend: recessions are preceded by a cyclical low in unemployment.
The Surprising Link Between Unemployment and Recessions
The U.S. labor market is having a strong start to 2023, adding 504,000 nonfarm payrolls in January, and 311,000 in February.
Both figures surpassed analyst expectations by a wide margin, and in January, the unemployment rate hit a 53-year low of 3.4%. With the recent release of February’s numbers, unemployment is now reported at a slightly higher 3.6%.
A low unemployment rate is a classic sign of a strong economy. However, as this visualization shows, unemployment often reaches a cyclical low point right before a recession materializes.
Reasons for the Trend
In an interview regarding the January jobs data, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen made a bold statement:
You don’t have a recession when you have 500,000 jobs and the lowest unemployment rate in more than 50 years
While there’s nothing wrong with this assessment, the trend we’ve highlighted suggests that Yellen may need to backtrack in the near future. So why do recessions tend to begin after unemployment bottoms out?
The Economic Cycle
The economic cycle refers to the economy’s natural tendency to fluctuate between periods of growth and recession.
This can be thought of similarly to the four seasons in a year. An economy expands (spring), reaches a peak (summer), begins to contract (fall), then hits a trough (winter).
With this in mind, it’s reasonable to assume that a cyclical low in the unemployment rate (peak employment) is simply a sign that the economy has reached a high point.
During periods of low unemployment, employers may have a harder time finding workers. This forces them to offer higher wages, which can contribute to inflation.
For context, consider the labor shortage that emerged following the COVID-19 pandemic. We can see that U.S. wage growth (represented by a three-month moving average) has climbed substantially, and has held above 6% since March 2022.
The Federal Reserve, whose mandate is to ensure price stability, will take measures to prevent inflation from climbing too far. In practice, this involves raising interest rates, which makes borrowing more expensive and dampens economic activity. Companies are less likely to expand, reducing investment and cutting jobs. Consumers, on the other hand, reduce the amount of large purchases they make.
Because of these reactions, some believe that aggressive rate hikes by the Fed can either cause a recession, or make them worse. This is supported by recent research, which found that since 1950, central banks have been unable to slow inflation without a recession occurring shortly after.
Politicians Clash With Economists
The Fed has raised interest rates at an unprecedented pace since March 2022 to combat high inflation.
More recently, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell warned that interest rates could be raised even higher than originally expected if inflation continues above target. Senator Elizabeth Warren expressed concern that this would cost Americans their jobs, and ultimately, cause a recession.
According to the Fed’s own report, if you continue raising interest rates as you plan, unemployment will be 4.6% by the end of the year.
– Elizabeth Warren
Powell remains committed to bringing down inflation, but with the recent failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, some analysts believe there could be a pause coming in interest rate hikes.
Editor’s note: just after publication of this article, it was confirmed that U.S. interest rates were hiked by 25 basis points (bps) by the Federal Reserve.
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