It’s been a tough couple of weeks for tech workers in Seattle and on the Eastside. Major employers including Amazon, Meta, Microsoft and Twitter have all recently announced – or already made – cuts to their workforces in the area. While this is certainly a switch from the previously explosive growth in the tech sector, it’s important to put these layoffs into a broader context. The tapping of tech sector brakes does not mean that our region’s economic engine stops, and that engine has been in overdrive for some time.
Perhaps the most notable announcement came from Amazon, which says it’s considering laying off up to 10,000 workers. Though a startling figure on its own, as of last year the company employed around 75,000 workers in the Seattle area alone. Globally, Amazon currently employs about 1.5 million workers, primarily in hourly positions. Even if Amazon cut 10,000 positions, it would make up less than 1% of its total workforce, or 3% of its corporate employees.
The company has not yet announced where the cuts will take place, so the impact on the Seattle and Eastside markets is not clear. However, even if all 10,000 cuts took place in Washington state, that would only set the company back by about a year in terms of its employment numbers.
Amazon is not the only tech company that is scaling back. Meta confirmed plans to cut 726 positions in Seattle and Bellevue, and Redfin laid off 862 employees across the country. Microsoft will cut less than 1% of its 180,000 employees nationally, after it enacted a hiring freeze earlier this year.
Although big tech in Seattle is reeling from the return to a more normal market, decreased demand after the pandemic and the pressure of rising interest rates, these cuts do not mean the city’s tech sector is failing by any means. In the Seattle area, more than 160,000 people are employed in the tech sector, with over 190,000 across Washington state.
In fact, smaller and mid-sized tech companies are benefitting from the large talent pool of tech workers in the area. Redmond-based business technology firm Denali Advanced Integration plans to add 25% each year for the next five years. Other non-tech businesses need talented tech employees for the increasingly digital portions of their businesses.
Many former employees of Twitter and Meta are finding new opportunities with these smaller firms, including such well-known names as Remitly and Shopify.
Although seeing the bigger picture certainly can’t take the sting out of these layoffs, it’s important to remember that there are still plenty of opportunities for tech workers across the Seattle area. With a new year fast approaching, it’s time to wait and see what 2023 will hold.