“You have two diverging paths for tech workers,” says Pollak. “One group is taking a flight-to-safety approach and going to companies and industries that are recession-resistant. And another group will throw caution to the wind and take a big risk and start their own companies.”
Overall, the job market for tech talent remains strong. In August, the unemployment rate for tech occupations in the US stood at 2.3 percent, according to the Computing Technology Industry Association, significantly lower than the US unemployment rate of 3.7 percent that month, which is itself low by historical standards. There are an estimated 8.7 million tech workers in the US, according to numbers CompTIA released earlier this year.
At least some of the recent layoffs are less a symptom of a major turn in the economy and more a response to over-hiring by tech companies during the unexpected boom they experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic. “We were much too optimistic about the internet economy’s near-term growth in 2022 and 2023,” Patrick Collison, Stripe’s CEO, said in a memo to staff about the company’s layoffs. Mark Zuckerberg cited his own misreading of the pandemic internet surge in his memo to staff about Meta’s job cuts. “Many people predicted this would be a permanent acceleration that would continue even after the pandemic ended,” he wrote. “I got this wrong, and I take responsibility for that.”
The hiring pauses at companies like Amazon, Apple, and Alphabet can also be seen as signs of sober restraint, not a major crisis, says Rucha Vankudre, senior economist with the labor market analytics firm Lightcast. “Everyone is looking ahead, seeing prices are up, and trying to cut costs,” says Vankudre. Companies, she says, are “trying to be more measured.”
The bigger picture may not be that reassuring to individuals who were laid off and are now scrambling to quickly find new employment or risk losing work visas. But technology workers have a tradition of banding together to help fellow techies after layoffs.
“There is a general identity of being a tech worker,” says Nataliya Nedzhvetskaya, a grad student researching sociology and employee activism at UC Berkeley and a member of Collective Action in Tech, a volunteer-run project to unite tech workers. “There’s a precedent in this industry for sharing information [and] a culture that values transparency.”
Tech workers trying to soften the impact of layoffs have formed groups on LinkedIn for workers recently let go by Meta. They started and circulated a Google sheet with potential opportunities. And they’re elevating each other’s posts on LinkedIn and other social platforms to boost their audiences and catch the eye of managers who are hiring, not cutting staff.
There’s also some institutional support. Coda, an online documents startup, hosts company alumni lists that laid-off workers can add their details to. Collective Action in Tech published a guide for those laid off at Twitter, including tips to help workers to understand their rights and how to communicate securely, for example by using Signal.
That swell of support is helping some tech workers stay calm even as headlines about layoffs pile up. “There’s a lot of uncertainty, and people are acknowledging that there’s going to be a lot of fluctuation,” says Nedzhvetskaya. Yet while people are understandably anxious about job losses, she says, she doesn’t see a “full-fledged panic.”