2024 Has Already Seen a New Round of Layoffs. How Will the Rest of the Year Be?

February 28, 2024

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The year 2024 has kicked off with a seemingly paradoxical scenario in the tech industry. On one hand, the Nasdaq index is soaring, and the U.S. economy is defying expectations by adding jobs at an impressive rate. On the other hand, however, many industries are experiencing a new round of layoffs, signaling a significant shift in the industry’s dynamics. Let’s explore the reasons behind this unexpected trend and contemplate the potential trajectory for the rest of the year.

The Changing Landscape of Tech Layoffs

As the artificial intelligence boom continues and the tech-heavy Nasdaq index records an 8 percent year-to-date increase, it’s easy to assume that all is well in tech. However, a closer look may reveal a different narrative. A staggering 42,324 tech employees were laid off in early 2024. This averages to more than 780 layoffs daily, a significant increase from 2023.

Watching Their Wallets

One of the biggest factors contributing to a round of layoffs is that companies are watching their wallets. In the past, companies were able to pass increasing costs onto consumers, an effect that has added up. As consumers spend less and companies are pressured not to keep increasing prices, they find other ways to cut costs. 

As companies delve deeper into the artificial intelligence realm, investments in the necessary infrastructure, such as chips and servers, become paramount. Investors’ appetite for risk and growth versus profitability has also shifted. It often prompts companies to reallocate resources and streamline their operations.

The Stock Market Effect

It is also vital to note that the stock market effect has played a massive role in shaping the layoff landscape. Contrary to conventional wisdom, companies conducting layoffs have not faced negative consequences from investors or on their bottom lines. In fact, they have been rewarded with rising stock prices. This peculiar dynamic has created a scenario where companies perceive layoffs as a favorable strategy to appease shareholders.

A Herding Effect in Tech

One of the more interesting concepts we see play out here is the herding effect. Larger tech companies, even those sitting on substantial cash reserves and enjoying profitability, are engaging in rounds of layoffs to get a piece of a boost in their stock prices. Some suggest that this trend has become the “new normal,” with companies getting away with it because others follow suit. 

Strong Job Market

Here’s the good news: the job market is very strong. Despite the job cuts, the U.S. unemployment rate remains near a 50-year low. The relatively low jobless rate and ongoing hiring activities paint a positive picture. However, it’s acknowledged that the job market has cooled compared to the hiring frenzy witnessed in 2021 and 2022. The “Great Resignation” during those years, characterized by a tight job market and increased job switching, may contribute to the perception that the current hiring pace is sluggish.

Looking Ahead

Economists expect the job market to become more pre-pandemic in the next few months without any massive growth following lockdowns. Small businesses, which employ nearly half the U.S. workforce, are confident about growth in 2024, and layoffs should slow as the year progresses. 

Job seekers are advised to adjust their mindsets and tactics. Experts highlight the need for a different approach in the current job market. Employers are now more cost-conscious, and job seekers should be persistent, adapting to the evolving landscape. Learning new skills or submitting more applications may be necessary to overcome the current challenges.

The tech industry’s layoff landscape in 2024 presents a complex and nuanced picture. While the broader economic indicators suggest prosperity, the internal dynamics of the tech sector are undergoing a transformation driven by a combination of factors, including the A.I. boom, stock market dynamics, and a copycat layoff phenomenon. As the year unfolds, it remains to be seen whether this trend will continue and how it will shape the future of work in the ever-evolving tech landscape. 

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