A Blog by Jonathan Low

 

Jun 15, 2022

Tech and Crypto Startup Layoffs Rise, But AI and ML Hiring Remains Strong

Layoffs in venture-supported tech and crypto companies have risen as the markets have continued to crater. But the exception is people with skills in artificial intelligence and machine learning for whom hiring remains strong. 

The reason is that there was a shortage of people with those skills to begin with, as the sudden demand for them far outpaced the supply, even as universities grew their programs in those fields and companies accelerated their in-house training. That pent-up demand continues to fuel hiring for talent with AI experience as financial markets crater, venture funding becomes more discriminating and broader economic conditions worsen. JL

Andrew Marquardt reports in Fortune:

Amid rising inflation and slowing demand, tech and crypto companies cut more jobs in May than in the previous four months combined. "Technology startups that saw tremendous growth in 2020 - particularly in the real estate, financial, and delivery sectors - are beginning to see a slowdown in users, and coupled with interest rate concerns, are restructuring their workforces to cut costs." (But) Despite the slew of layoffs among tech and crypto firms, the latest U.S. jobs report showed 390,000 job gains in May.Last month, Fortune reported that the tech industry’s 2021 hiring boom seemed to be slowing down. One month later, it’s clear that the boom is over.

Amid rising inflation rates and slowing demand, tech and crypto companies cut more jobs in the month of May than in the previous four months combined, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, as  first reported by MarketWatch. 

There were 4,044 job cuts in the tech industry in May, compared to around 500 through the first four months of the year and the most in one month since December 2020, according to the Challenger, Gray & Christmas figures. Crypto and other companies in the fintech industry cut 1,619 jobs in May, compared to 440 in January through April. 

"Many technology startups that saw tremendous growth in 2020—particularly in the real estate, financial, and delivery sectors—are beginning to see a slowdown in users, and coupled with inflation and interest rate concerns, are restructuring their workforces to cut costs," Andrew Challenger, senior vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, told Reuters.

Many of the world’s top tech and crypto companies announced plans to slow down hiring last month amid what Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi described as a reaction to a “seismic shift” in the markets.

 

Khosrowshahi told employees last month the company will begin to “treat hiring as a privilege” as a means for cutting costs. Facebook parent company Meta announced in early May it was slowing or pausing hiring mid- to senior-level positions for the same reason. A week later, Salesforce made a similar announcement

Last week, Microsoft announced it was slowing hiring in its Windows, Office, and Teams chat and conferencing software groups, citing a need to realign staffing priorities. Shares of Snap Inc. dropped as much as 30% last week after CEO Evan Spiegel announced the company was slowing down hiring for the rest of the year and expected to miss its quarterly revenue and earnings targets. 

On Friday, crypto exchange Coinbase announced it was pausing hiring “for the foreseeable future” as a result of market conditions, and even went as far as rescinding job offers to people who had recently accepted jobs there but had not yet started to work. 

Other companies have taken it a step further and have started to lay off employees.

 

Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced on Friday that the company plans to cut 10% of jobs for salaried workers, according to Electrek. Musk said in an internal email that Tesla has “become overstaffed in many areas,” prompting the upcoming layoffs. 

Insurtech platform Policygenius laid off 25% of its staff in recent weeks, less than three months after it raised more than $125 million in investments, according to reporting from TechCrunch.

In April, digital brokerage app Robinhood said it would be cutting 9% of its workforce, after the company’s headcount grew from around 700 employees in 2019 to 3,800 at the end of 2021. Also in April, streaming giant Netflix laid off dozens of employees from its Tudum editorial companion site after losing 200,000 subscribers in the previous quarter. 

Despite the recent slew of layoffs and hiring slow-downs among tech and crypto firms, the latest U.S. jobs report showed 390,000 job gains in May, outpacing expectations. 

Job growth in May was led by steady hiring in leisure and hospitality, business services, and education and health care, Bloomberg reported.

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