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Tech Industry Layoffs and the Future 

by Laura Beane

Major tech companies such as Amazon and Meta drastically increased their hiring efforts to stay apace with new technological demands during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this may have been proactive as we have seen a return to normal over the past year. Now, these same industries that experienced record hiring are responding to the decreasing growth with major layoffs. "It's estimated that in 2022 alone, over 120,000 people have been dismissed from their job at some of the biggest players in tech – Meta, Amazon, Netflix, and soon Google" [2] Even more layoffs have been occurring early into 2023 and I can foresee them continuing into the first quarter of the year. 

There are many different reasons the tech industry is conducting these unprecedented layoffs. As mentioned briefly above, the return to the physical space after the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the major causes. While Covid-19 all but halted physical social interaction, online communities and technology use boomed. However, now that we are returning to work, that pandemic demand has softened leading to many big tech companies scaling back their workforce.  Additionally, there is also talk of an upcoming recession leading big tech companies to pull back the reins on spending and hiring. Many companies fear that with a recession on the horizon, customers will also pull back on spending. Historically though, the technology industry has been fairly resilient even in times of economic challenge which is why these massive layoffs are unprecedented. It is interesting to note also that even now most of these companies are still experiencing a period of profit, just at a less rampant rate compared to previous years.

So, are these layoffs indicative of a future concern to the future of technology? Probably not. "The belt-tightening is meant to send a message to shareholders at a time when tech companies have seen their stock prices plunge." [1] The technology industry is being careful, however, when you are as profitable as these companies continue to be, these layoffs seem to be an erroneous action. Technology is still booming, and these big players are not going anywhere any time soon, even with massive layoffs.

The tech industry layoffs could be indicative of an upcoming recession or backlash from over hiring during the pandemic - whatever the case may be, layoffs take a toll.Libraries are not immune to the woes that plague the tech industry. "Layoffs are contagious across industries and within industries. The logic driving this, which doesn’t sound like very sensible logic because it’s not, is people say, ‘Everybody else is doing it, why aren’t we?’" [2]. The fear that the tech industry layoffs have caused is palpable, however, hopefully we can learn from the tech industry and focus on the humans behind the job titles. Additionally, we can understand that we should be cautious when hiring. To be effective, employees need to build trust with their employers and be able to feel like they are recognized – layoffs destroy that trust. We will have to wait and see what the long-term effects of these massive layoffs will bring, but it is an important conversation to be had in other industries, including libraries, about how to avoid what is going on in tech.



About the author:

Laura Beane is the Data Services Librarian at Kennesaw State University. She has an MS in Library Science from East Carolina University. Her professional experience includes data analytics, research, web services, and data services librarianship.