Mass layoffs begin as Amazon aims to trim its workforce

Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 4:17 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. - Major local employer Amazon has begun mass layoffs in its corporate ranks, becoming the latest tech company to trim its workforce amid rising fears about the wider economic environment.

Amazon is a big employer in the Augusta region, thanks to its fulfillment and sorting centers in Appling.

But no layoffs are happening at the Appling facilities. They are only in corporate jobs and tech roles, which are not connected to the local facilities.

On Tuesday, the company notified regional authorities in California that it would lay off about 260 workers at various facilities that employ data scientists, software engineers and other corporate workers. Those job cuts would be effective beginning on Jan. 17.

Amazon employs more than 1.5 million workers globally, primarily made up of hourly workers. That number is double the company’s workforce just three years ago.

The online retail giant, like other tech and social media giants, saw sizable profits during the COVID-19 pandemic as homebound shoppers purchased more items online. But revenue growth slowed as the worst of the pandemic eased and consumers relied less on e-commerce.

The holiday shopping season is critical for Amazon, and one where the company has increased its headcount – even recruiting 800 employees locally for the season and offering an opportunity for employees to go permanent at the end of the holiday season.

But Andy Jassy, the CEO since July 2021, has been cutting costs as the company confronts slowing sales and a gloomy global economy. The cuts also come on the heels of Elon Musk laying off half of all Twitter employees and Facebook parent Meta laying off 11,000 workers.

In an effort to cut back on costs, Amazon has already been axing some of its projects — including subsidiary fabric.com, Amazon Care, and the cooler-size home delivery robot Scout.

It’s also been scaling back its physical footprint by delaying — or canceling — plans to occupy some new warehouses across the country.

And Amazon Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky has said the company was preparing for what could be a slower growth period and would be careful about hiring in the near future.

Mass layoffs are rare at Amazon, but the company has had rounds of job cuts in 2018 and in 2001 during the dot-com crash.

In a statement posted on the company’s website, Dave Limp, senior vice president of devices and services, said Amazon was consolidating some teams and programs. He said those laid off in the process were notified on Tuesday and the company will work with them to “provide support,” including assistance in finding new roles. If an employee cannot find a new role within the company, Limp said Amazon will provide a severance payment, external job placement support and what he called transitional benefits.

The retail behemoth follows other tech giants who’ve cut jobs in the past few weeks. Among them, Facebook parent Meta said last week it would lay off 11,000 people, about 13% of its workforce. And Elon Musk, the new Twitter CEO, slashed the company’s workforce in half this month.