Younger Americans Aren't Buying the Idea That Recent Mass Layoffs Were Unavoidable
More than 100,000. That’s how many tech employees have been laid off since the start of 2023, according to Layoffs.fyi, which tracks job losses in the industry.
Giants like Alphabet Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Meta Platforms Inc. — historically high-growth companies that hired at even faster-than-usual rates during the pandemic — are leading the charge. Each has eliminated more than 10,000 positions in the last three months, while Meta reported plans to soon further reduce its headcount.
In most every case, leaders at these companies have cited an anticipated recession as the primary reason for reductions. A new Morning Consult survey, however, revealed that young people — many of whom are experiencing widespread layoffs for the first time — are largely rejecting this narrative.
Sixty percent of Gen Z adults said recent mass layoffs were avoidable based on the current economic environment, while more than half (52%) of millennials said the same. Less than a quarter of Gen Zers and a third of millennials agreed with the notion that layoffs could not be avoided.
These mass layoffs could pose a significant risk to brands’ future hiring efforts. A majority of employed U.S. adults (58%) said they would be unlikely to consider a new position at a company that has recently reduced headcount.
3 in 5 Gen Z Adults Believe Recent Mass Layoffs Were Avoidable
Older Americans, however, take a more sympathetic view
- Almost 2 in 5 baby boomers (38%) said recent layoffs were not avoidable, the most of any cohort, though Gen Xers were just behind at 37%.
- In contrast, less than one-third of millennials (31%) and less than a quarter of Gen Z adults (23%) believe companies had no choice but to enact job cuts given current economic conditions.
Adults of All Ages Agree: A Scheduled, In-Person Approach to Layoffs Is Most Appropriate
Layoffs conducted via unscheduled emails or phone calls are universally deemed inappropriate
- About 2 in 3 of adults (68%) said that a layoff announcement followed by a scheduled in-person meeting with a manager is an appropriate way to conduct staffing reductions — significantly more than any other tested method.
- Conversely, an almost-equal share (70%) said that enacting layoffs through an unscheduled email is inappropriate. Gen Z adults and millennials, however, were more likely to approve of layoffs conducted in this manner than their Gen X and baby boomer counterparts.
- In response to a separate question, most adults stated they believe companies are responsible for providing layoff-impacted employees with severance pay (81%), extended health insurance coverage (78%) and new job search assistance (60%).
Employed Americans Don’t Want to Work at Companies That Recently Laid People Off
Using contractors and AI to replace core business functions are also widely unappealing
- Aside from millennials, majorities of each generational cohort said they are unlikely to consider working at a company that has replaced core business functions with contractors or artificial intelligence.
- Corporate opposition to employee unionization efforts is also a notable sticking point for younger respondents: 59% of employed Gen Z adults said they would not be likely to consider working for a company that had recently expressed such a stance.
- On the flip side, allowing permanent remote work appears to be a significant attraction. More than 3 in 5 employed Gen Z adults (65%) and millennials (61%) indicated interest in employment at organizations with this policy.
- The data also suggests that bold actions by chief executives can have a meaningful impact on employment consideration. An overwhelming majority of respondents across generations said they would be likely to consider working at a company at which the CEO took a pay cut instead of conducting layoffs.
Small slump or seismic shift?
While the tech industry’s recent actions may have shaken its long-held association with job security and profuse perks, questions remain about whether or not its attractiveness to job seekers — especially young ones — is permanently blemished.
Many tech giants have paused or rescinded internship and full-time employment offers to college students amid the layoff wave. Counselors at elite universities are beginning to caution against pursuing careers in Silicon Valley as fewer tech companies show up for on-campus hiring fairs. Laid-off tech workers are going viral on TikTok for chronicling the woes of unemployment.
As more Gen Zers age into the workforce, their influence over the social conversations that shape work culture and employer expectations will continue to grow. And widespread layoffs, which are happening at formative ages for many within the cohort, may prove to hamper trust in the impacted industries.
The Feb. 17-19, 2023, survey was conducted among a representative sample of 2,205 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
Ellyn Briggs is a data reporter at Morning Consult covering brands and marketing. @ellynbriggs