code-for-a-living March 19, 2023

What’s different about these layoffs

As the discouraging news continues, we revisit how our core community of developers has been experiencing the layoffs—and explore what sets this economic situation apart from previous dips and busts.
Avatar for Eira May
Senior Content Marketer

It’s an anxious time to work in tech. According to one count, more than 280,000 people were laid off from tech jobs in 2022 and the first two months of 2023.

This is scary. People have lost their livelihoods. Thousands of people in the United States on H-1B work visas, along with their families, face deportation unless they can find another job within 60 days. Diversity gains in tech have been dealt a serious blow. These layoffs have spotlighted the tenuous and unsustainable situation the US immigration system creates for foreign-born workers; the disproportionate impact of tech layoffs on women, people of color, and parents; and the still-shifting landscape of the post-pandemic economy.

More than 280,000 people were laid off from tech jobs in 2022 and the first two months of 2023.

Many of us have been through layoffs before, sometimes several times. My career at tech companies began in 2014, and in that time I’ve been laid off once. My colleague Ryan Donovan recently wrote about his experiences with tech startups and how to handle industry-wide layoffs, whether you recently lost your job or you’re just afraid you might.

As the discouraging headlines and meta-narrative about what the layoffs really mean continue, we thought it was worth revisiting how our core community of developers has been experiencing and coping with this ongoing reality—and exploring what sets this economic situation apart from previous dips and busts.

The post-pandemic economy isn’t what we expected

Any conversation about tech layoffs in 2023 has to account for the fact that, as The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson put it, “the post-pandemic economy has been much weirder than most people anticipated.”

In 2020, Thompson writes, people noted our rising dependence on technology like streaming video and food-delivery apps and predicted an “acceleration” of the rapidly digitalizing pandemic economy: “In this interpretation, the pandemic was a time machine, hastening the 2030s and raising tech valuations accordingly.” In response, hiring across tech jumped. By 2022, it was clear that the pandemic had produced less of a steady, sustainable acceleration and more of a…well, bubble. And we all know what bubbles tend to do.

The current economy has less in common than you might think with the dot-com bubble or the Great Recession.

But the current economy has less in common than you might think with the wreckage of the dot-com bubble or the Great Recession. Overall, it’s still a good time to work in tech, and the hiring market remains robust: One survey found that almost 80% of people laid off in tech found new roles within three months of launching their job search. There are more open tech positions than people to fill them (about 375,000, according to one estimate), and job listings between January and October 2022 were up 25% over the same period in 2021.

Company see, company do?

If the job market isn’t as dire as we think, why does this round of layoffs feel so widespread, affecting companies often perceived as more recession-proof than their peers? Part of the answer may be what organizational behavior experts have termed “copycat layoffs.” 

“Laying off employees turns out to be infectious,” writes Annie Lowrey in The Atlantic. “When executives see their corporate competitors letting go of workers, they seize what they see as an opportunity to reduce their workforce, rather than having no choice but to do so.” Organizations seeking to reduce risk in the face of an anticipated economic downturn may jump on the opportunity to trim costs without raising a ruckus. Companies that lay off employees while everyone else is doing it also reduce their risk of reputational damage: they’re not the only ones doing it, which suggests that layoffs are due to external economic factors, rather than company-specific shortcomings.

The jobs aren’t gone—they’ve just moved

In many cases, workers laid off by household-name tech companies have found new jobs outside the traditional parameters of the tech industry, where their skill sets are in high demand. As Matt McLarty, global field chief technology officer for MuleSoft, told CNBC, businesses that have long needed tech professionals to upgrade their stack or guide a long-delayed cloud migration can now scoop up freshly laid-off tech workers (and those for whom Silicon Valley has lost its luster). Companies in energy and climate technology, healthcare, retail, finance, agriculture, and more are hiring tech pros at a steady clip, even if FAANG companies are less bullish. It’s been said before that every company is a tech company, but in 2023, that’s truer than ever. 

In fact, the biggest difference for tech workers this year, reports The New Stack, is that “the greatest opportunities may not lie exclusively in the FAANG companies anymore, but in more traditional industries that are upgrading their legacy stacks and embracing cloud native.”

The greatest opportunities may [lie] in more traditional industries that are upgrading their legacy stacks and embracing cloud native.

Some of those opportunities also lie with startups, including ones helmed by Big Tech veterans ready to turn their layoffs into lemonade. And efforts are underway to build the leading generative AI platform and an expanding ecosystem of related tools. “There’s a lot of investment firms that are still bullish about the startup space,” Lindsay Grenawalt, chief people officer at Cockroach Labs, which raised $278 million in Series F in late 2021, told The New Stack

So whether you’ve been affected by the recent spate of layoffs or not, it’s worth expanding your list of potential employers to include companies—even industries—you’ve never considered. You might find that they’re thrilled to have you.

One place to start is Indeed’s layoff support resources, offered in collaboration with Stack Overflow, Glassdoor, and Tech Up For Women. You’ll find free, automated tools to optimize your job search; paid professional services like career coaching and resume building; and articles and webinars to help you navigate things like negotiating a severance package, understanding unemployment eligibility, pivoting to a new career, and more.

We’re also teaming up with Indeed to provide a 45-minute learning and development webinar where experts at Indeed will share best practices for job hunting and professional development while answering your career questions. Register below to get your questions answered by the experts!

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