January was one of the darkest months for the tech industry ever, with dozens of companies reporting huge losses and announcing thousands of job cuts. I would rather be writing about products which marked the start of the year, but all were overshadowed by the army of newly unemployed techies. What's worse, the trend shows no signs of slowing down, and this week alone NEC and Panasonic announced they would cut their workforce by 20,000 and 15,000 respectively.
So, let's take a look at some of the major cuts we reported over the past five weeks. Circuit City leads the board with 34,000, although the story didn't get much coverage in European media, the Circuit City liquidation accounts for more jobless in North America than all other cuts combined.
Intel announced it would shed 6,000, AMD will probably axe about 1,500, Microsoft 5,000, Seagate 2,950, Dell 2,400, Lenovo 2,500, Texas Instruments 3,400, TSMC 1,000, STMicro 4,500. Communications giants Motorola and Ericsson will cut 4,000 and 5,000 respectively, while Sprint Nextel announced it would axe 8,000. I'm not even going to bother naming all of them, as it would simply take too much time, but you get the picture.
Anyway, the tally ends up well over 90,000 in January alone. Now, we only reported on big cuts, and hundreds of smaller announcements went by quietly, not getting any coverage on most tech/business sites. What's worse, we're talking about major players in the market, listed companies with tens of thousands of employees. The number of layoffs in smaller, privately owned companies is extremely hard to gauge. Unlike listed companies, they don't have to report to the SEC or similar regulatory bodies, and if they go under, nobody reports about it. They just become a footnote in government statistics, which collected on a quarterly, or yearly basis.
Small developers, e-tailers, design studios, outsourcing outfits and providers of various services often operate under the radar, but the fact you don't hear about their troubles doesn't mean they're doing well. Dozens of small developers, freelancers and designers we talked to over the past months say they were forced to cut jobs, and many are on the brink of going under.
Also, keep in mind that most of these layoffs haven't actually taken place yet. They were announced, but most of them will be executed at a later date. For example, Microsoft will cut 5,000 this year, but it has cut just 1,400 so far, while the rest will go in stages.