New figures out from outplacement stalwart Challenger, Gray & Christmas show that technology layoff rates haven't been this high since 2002. That's the bad news.
The good news is that the overall layoff numbers on a quarter-by-quarter basis (and in overall total) are not as close to the bubble-bursting era. Is that comforting? I wouldn't begin to know how to answer that question, other than to say, I was a victim of the bubble bursting firsthand in 2001. This recession, by contrast, is much more widespread outside of technology, with a financial system backbone that is frail and weak.
Here is the lowdown (from the CG&C news release):
"First-quarter tech sector job cuts were nearly five times higher than the 17,345 cuts announced during the same period a year ago. Job cuts in the sector, which includes telecommunications, computer and electronics firms, have increased in each of the last five quarters, growing by an average of 42 percent every three months.Despite the increase, quarterly technology job cuts remain well below the levels reached during the dot-com collapse that resulted in 1,163,742 tech-sector job cuts in 2001 and 2002. During that period, employers announced an average of 145,467 job cuts each quarter."
Additionally, the report goes on to show quarter-by-quarter layoff numbers for 2008 broken down into three segments of the tech sector: telecom, computer and electronics. Take a look at the numbers for all of 2008:
Telecom: 48,648 Computer: 64,860 Electronics: 42,062 Total: 155,570
So, when you factor in the total layoff numbers for the first quarter of 2009 (84,217), the total jumps to 239,787 from 2008 until now.
The report does not break down these numbers by company name or job titles, so dissecting them is a bit of a challenge, but the most important takeaway to me is the rising rate of layoff activity.
One way to compare these numbers is to look at the TechCrunch layoff tracker, which begins back in September of 2008, but is ongoing. The TC numbers show the following:
Total Layoffs Since Aug. 27, 2008: 455 Total Employees: 319,630
One explanation for the comparable discrepancies between the CG&C and TC numbers could be TechCrunch's inclusion of media companies and some large retailers like CircuitCity that have totally gone belly up. Plus, the TC numbers include companies of all sizes, including some of the smallest Silicon Valley startups.
What sticks out to me is the near-100,000 delta between the numbers (TC: 319,630 vs. CG&C: 239,787), namely because TC's numbers are only from September of last year and CG&C's numbers are for all of 2008 through the first quarter of this year. TC bases its numbers on published news of layoffs. It isn't clear where CG&C is getting its numbers for this report.
Regardless, the news is not what we want to hear, but it helps in seeing a fuller picture and for getting a sense of the overall view in recent-historic terms.