Tech industry hit with massive layoffs as other employers add jobs

The latest jobs report is further confirmation of a labor market that may be slowing down but has proven more resilient than many have expected. Many sectors are continuing to add jobs, but that's not true in the tech sector, where several companies have announced layoffs. Economics correspondent Paul Solman looks at what that means for those workers.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The latest jobs report is further confirmation of a strong labor market in the U.S., one that may be slowing down, but has proven more resilient than many have expected. Many sectors are continuing to add jobs.

    But that is not true in the tech sector, where a number of companies have announced layoffs.

    Our economics correspondent, Paul Solman, looks at what that means for those workers, and why the struggles in tech may not be as problematic for the wider economy as one would think.

  • Paul Solman:

    Seven weeks into her dream job as the software company at the software company known as Meta, formally known as Facebook, Julia Gonik was suddenly laid off.

  • Julia Gonik, Former Meta Employee:

    It's like the ground just fell out from underneath me, and all of my opportunities and the future that I saw for myself just completely disappeared.

  • Paul Solman:

    Now, the ink barely dry on her MIT diploma, the computer science major is looking for a new job.

  • Julia Gonik:

    The market is just not great right now. So that makes interviewing and looking for a new job more stressful, since you just don't know if there are jobs out there or if you can get a job that you would actually like to do and want to do.

  • Paul Solman:

    Especially jobs that pay like big tech.

  • Julia Gonik:

    Software engineers at these big companies definitely make very good money right outside of college, definitely six figures, starting salary.

  • Paul Solman:

    Plus a signing bonus.

    Three weeks ago, Gonik was one of 11,000 laid off at Meta without warning, 13 percent of the company, one of more than 140,000 tech workers who have already lost their jobs this year, making headlines worldwide.

    Especially worried, those on a work-sponsored visa which allows them to remain in the U.S.

  • Sowmya Iyer, Former Lyft Employee:

    It is extremely stressful being in that ambiguous state, being in — like, feeling really vulnerable and really, like, helpless.

  • Paul Solman:

    For four years, Sowmya Iyer was a product designer at the ridesharing app Lyft. She has 60 days to find a job or go back to India.

  • Sowmya Iyer:

    On the day of layoffs, you're instantly logged out of all your applications, all your systems, all your apps, all your documents.

  • Paul Solman:

    Four years of work that you were simply instantaneously logged out of?

  • Sowmya Iyer:

    Yes.

  • Paul Solman:

    Nobody to call to say, hey, can you just give me a couple of days to download some stuff?

  • Sowmya Iyer:

    The moment you're laid off, you have until the end of the day.

  • Paul Solman:

    So what did you do?

  • Sowmya Iyer:

    I had a lot of exit formalities to complete, so that took most of my day.

  • Paul Solman:

    And all that time, you're thinking, how do I retrieve…

  • Sowmya Iyer:

    Work.

  • Paul Solman:

    … the work you have done for your portfolio?

  • Sowmya Iyer:

    Right. It was driving me crazy. I had to compromise on a lot of great companies because everyone instantly wants to see work.

  • Paul Solman:

    And she could not access any of hers. So, massive disruption in tech, massive layoffs, a harbinger of deep recession?

  • Vivek Wadhwa, Tech Entrepreneur:

    You know, Silicon Valley has burned down many times. And every time it burns down, it reinvents itself. But, this time, it isn't a forest fire. It's just a hedge trimming.

  • Paul Solman:

    Longtime valley entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa.

  • Vivek Wadhwa:

    This is nothing like the dot-com burst. The dot-com burst had global consequences and it was huge. It set the economy back for years to come. This is just a minor correction.

  • Paul Solman:

    Economist Betsey Stevenson agrees.

    Betsey Stevenson, Former Council of Economic Advisers Member: What I'm seeing is a sector that hired more than most other sectors did during the pandemic. They're pulling back a little bit with layoffs.

    And we're still dealing with monthly jobs reports that are showing us job growth that's bigger than almost any single month we had prior to the pandemic. So, I don't think there's any reason to worry that there are some people losing their jobs, because you know there are hundreds of thousands of others gaining jobs.

  • Paul Solman:

    Of course, that does not make it any easier for those workers laid off. But Stevenson actually has a positive big-picture reframing.

  • Betsey Stevenson:

    When the pandemic began, technology was our savior. We turned to technology to be able to work from home, to be able to shop from home, to be able to talk to our doctors from home.

    But I do think that it's run its course in terms of that growth. And the fact that is resulting in the tech sector having layoffs, to me, symbolizes that we've reached the end of this pandemic era.

  • Erik Brynjolfsson, Stanford University:

    I actually think that the recent wave is a bit overdue and may be good for the rest of the economy.

  • Paul Solman:

    And there is actually an upside to the layoffs, claims techno-optimist Erik Brynjolfsson, who runs the Digital Economy Lab at Stanford.

  • Erik Brynjolfsson:

    There's a ton of really great tech talent that's been tied up in activities that may not be creating that much value. Especially, I'm thinking of crypto.

    Meanwhile, the real need is to have tech folks go and transform the rest of America, manufacturing, retailing, finance, health care most of all. And we need to unleash some of the talent in that part of the economy.

  • Paul Solman:

    I put this to the talent itself.

  • Julia Gonik:

    I think that is possible. I have been looking at some job opportunities in the health care sector, for example. So it's definitely somewhere that I may end up.

  • Sowmya Iyer:

    I was always more passionate to be in health care or something that has to do with, like, food and health services or something that has to do with education and learning, et cetera. So, now I feel that it's a good time to recalibrate and rethink about the future.

  • Paul Solman:

    In sum, a rough ride, for sure, for laid off tech talent, especially from abroad, but, for the economy, and eventually even the talent, maybe, just maybe, a harbinger of health.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," this is Paul Solman, reporting, although still sometimes remotely, at what we all pray is the dawn of the post-pandemic era.

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