Where do laid-off tech workers go?

By Morf Morford, Tacoma Daily Index

So far this year, almost 80,000 tech industry workers have lost their jobs. This followed 160,000, mostly towards the end of last year, according to Layoffs.fyi. (Of course there would be a website tracking tech layoffs.)

As a whole though, the larger US tech industry, which includes companies like Google and Apple, added employees for the 25th consecutive month in December, according to data from industry association CompTIA.

In a way, such a “correction” had to happen. The number of people working in tech occupations — which could be any computer-related technical roles, like software developer, network engineer, data analyst — was at a record high of about 6.5 million that month.

In other words, a few thousand, even several thousand, layoffs is a tiny fraction of the total.

Another complication is that most people with tech occupations, well over half, don’t actually work directly in the tech industry. They work for finance, health care, and a wide range of retail companies.

It’s kind of like the distinction between large and small businesses in every sector and region; large businesses get the headlines while smaller businesses do most of the hiring.

Not everyone who works for a high tech company works with high tech

Google’s layoffs in California, for example, certainly hit people in engineering and software development roles, but it also included nearly 30 in-house massage therapists. And who knows how many food, catering and miscellaneous other subcontractors.

Support staff of all kinds fill every high tech company. Warehouse workers and drivers, after all, keep Amazon products moving.

In other words, those laid-off workers will scatter and go all kinds of different places.

It would be easy to make the argument that every company, to some degree, is a tech company.

And, no matter how high tech a company is (or isn’t) all kinds of jobs still need to be done.

From maintenance to delivery – and much more – the nuts and bolts of a business often require a direct touch.

Some workers will bail entirely on Big Tech and try to create startups that suit their vision.

Facebook (aka, Meta) had a famous motto – “move fast and break things” which seems to apply to careers as well as entire industries.

Not every company, to put it mildly, has the panache and dazzle of Google or Apple, but those smaller companies that most of us have never heard of, still hire, and even though the pay scales may never approach the high salaries, and free massages and endless snack bars may not be part of the benefits package, but job security and a sane work schedule might be a welcome refuge from the hyper-kinetic big name high tech pace and tenor.

You might consider these high tech workers as seeds scattering across the landscape.

Traditional office hours, or national borders, or even familiar job titles mean little to most of them.

Some have savings, the skills and inclination to become the ultimate of digital nomads.

And some have had enough of the frenetic pace and will pursue entirely different fields, remaking themselves and the fields they pursue.

Some will use dormant hands-on practical skills and do what none of us would expect, such as speciality baking, art or gardening.

In short, many will sprout in unexpected places, and bear fruit few of us, or even they, could have ever imagined.

Every “boom” town or industry has its ups and downs and its inevitable spreading and re-invention.

This is history. And the ultimate American story.