Technology Job Cuts Rose 351 Percent in 2019: Report

The technology industry cut 64,166 jobs in 2019, a notable 351 percent increase from 2018, according to a new analysis of job data by outplacement and coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Concerns over the U.S.-China trade war, plus shifts in consumer habits, may have driven a significant percentage of those layoffs.

“The sectors with the highest number of cuts this year were all dealing with trade concerns, emerging technologies, and shifts in consumer behavior,” the firm wrote in a note accompanying the data. But even a higher rate of job cuts hasn’t stopped “a lot of hiring activity in these industries.”

In other words, it seems many of these job cuts are the result of businesses trying to reposition in order to adapt to industry changes, rather than slicing positions in order to make it through hard economic times. Indeed, across all industries, restructuring was cited as the most-common reason for job cuts (ultimately culling 137,968 jobs), followed by trade difficulties (11,688 cuts) and tariffs (5,881). That being said, bankruptcy also remained a major factor, with 62,136 announced cuts in 2019. 

Last year, the tech industry saw some of its shiniest “unicorns” falter and even implode. For example, WeWork (which critics argue is actually a real-estate company that pretends it’s a hot tech startup, but bear with us) planned to cut thousands of workers after its IPO melted down. In November, WeWork’s executive chairman, Marcelo Claure, suggested in an email to employees that these layoffs would make the firm “stronger and better able to generate even more opportunities over the coming months and years,” but the company’s future is ultimately uncertain.   

Meanwhile, Uber laid off hundreds of employees from a number of divisions, including its Advanced Technologies Group and other tech-centric teams. The ride-sharing company is still trying to recover from a few years of messy internal and external crises, capped by an underwhelming IPO.

Well-established companies also cut jobs in 2019; for example, AT&T is reportedly in the midst of sweeping layoffs (according to Axios), replacing full-time workers with contractors in some cases.

As we head in 2020, the tech industry’s unemployment rate remains low, but that doesn’t prevent companies from cutting jobs and even whole divisions if they feel the need to “pivot” their current strategy. It always pays to keep your skills up-to-date… and to give your résumé a good polish, just in case.  

7 Responses to “Technology Job Cuts Rose 351 Percent in 2019: Report”

  1. just read today that city of Bridgeport ct raised the top teacher salary to $100,000 for 180 days plus pension and of course tenure(no layoff). Many normal IT people with grad degrees don’t make that and are dropping life flies (forget Google, Microsoft etc…a one in a thousand job that you have to move for and have basically medical school skills). What a deal

  2. The problem with a lot of tech jobs are that many are hard to quantify unless you are closing “tickets” and most people think you can google any IT problem and get a solution. Companies are struggling because the middle class is struggling and when the belt tightening starts, any job that’s not sales based or sales related is in danger. Even if the company realizes a real need for IT workers, they will low ball the pay scale and/or bring in contractors. The dark times aren’t coming, they are here and will be here for years to come. “It always pays to keep your skills up-to-date… and to give your résumé a good polish, just in case. That’s good advice.

    • Worked for a major Telecomm for 25 years. They just outsourced and offshored my job to India. They targetted people in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s to get rid of thousands of people.

  3. Actually TECH companies are hiring, in India currently. Americans are not wanted and that is why young adults no longer study many STEM fields today.

    The 1990 Immigration Act destroyed the second highest paying jobs in the US and now medical ones are next (through the bill s386 and similar attempts at relaxing visa requirements).

    The entire US working population could easily be replaced by foreign workers, but is that a good idea? Still, groups are forming like US TECH Workers to help educate law makers.

    If only more elected representatives came from the TECH fields and understood the problems workers faced, we’d see a booming economy for everyone, not just investors.

  4. Between outsourcing, robots and AI, tech jobs are an endangered species. They are pushing STEM programs to bring in younger, cheaper talent because of the potential backlash of bringing in foreign talent. Still, AT&T just made news recently about doing just that while on the heels of pushing 5G. I’m seriously considering getting into skilled trades and I’m staring 50 years old in the face. The law makers don’t care anymore than the companies. The lobbyist are calling the shots. My concern is that the next big financial crunch in the US will come from people who can’t find work even with advanced degree’s and certs piled to the ceiling.