On Wednesday, Microsoft announced it was laying off 10,000 people. Alphabet added to the misery with another 12,000 this morning. We’ve previously seen 18,000 jobs cut at Amazon and another 11,000 at Meta. You could also throw in Salesforce, which slashed 7,000 jobs at the beginning of the month.
You’ll notice one company is conspicuously missing from this wretched list, and that’s Apple, which at least until now, has remained on the sidelines when it comes to layoffs.
It’s worth noting that the company hasn’t had a history of big layoffs, and the last big one was back in 1997 when Steve Jobs returned to run things and laid off 4,100 employees. That was a time when Apple was in dire straits, before Jobs led a massive turnaround that began a steady march to the company we see today.
One of the biggest reasons we’ve heard for these layoffs has been over hiring, as the chart below illustrates:
Employee numbers at time of layoffs
Employee growth 2020-2021
Employees laid off
Data last updated March 22, 2023
Source: Macrotrends. Click employee growth numbers to access source data.
These companies grew like gangbusters during the height of the pandemic for various reasons, depending on the company, but each boosted their employee base significantly over the period between 2020 and 2022. As the economy slowed throughout 2022, these companies decided it was time to make a correction, and we’ve seen these massive layoffs as a result.
While the other organizations were adding gobs of employees, Apple has hired at a much more modest rate than its large tech company counterparts, adding only 17,000 employees during 2020-2022. Perhaps because it didn’t bring in so many employees as the others, that could account for the fact that it has yet to make big layoffs.
The only layoff news so far from Apple was a pretty modest one. In August Forbes reported that the company quietly laid off 100 contract tech recruiters. In a company of more than 160,000 employees, that feels insignificant, but it could have been a sign that at least the company was slowing hiring.
And that’s exactly what happened when the company announced a hiring freeze in November. While Apple indicated that it intended to keep hiring in certain roles, it was a general freeze as a reaction to the overall economic uncertainty that all these companies are reacting to.
The shifting economic climate, and overall uncertainty heading into the new year, has also been a big driver of the job cuts, but Apple has avoided using layoffs as a tool to this point.
All that said, with Apple scheduled to report earnings on February 1, we’ll probably get a clearer picture of the company’s overall financial performance. Nobody can predict what will happen here, and certainly given the overall pattern of layoffs we’ve seen recently at the other companies, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect something similar, but perhaps their hiring prudence will help prevent a comparable fate and Apple will spare its employees from this trauma.