29/11/2022

Tech layoffs are not a bellwether for broader cuts in other industries, Morgan Stanley analysts say

Small toy figures are seen in front of displayed Facebook’s new rebrand logo Meta in this illustration taken, October 28, 2021.

Dado Ruvic | Reuters

Tech employees at companies from Asana to Amazon and Meta have had their ranks winnowed by massive cuts not seen since the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, but in a new note, Morgan Stanley analysts say they don’t view these layoffs as a “harbinger of changes” for the broader labor pool.

In a research note sent out Thursday, Morgan Stanley analysts pointed to “idiosyncratic” hiring in tech relative to the rest of the labor market and the outsize market cap of tech firms as two factors in why tech layoffs have had an outsize impact on perceptions.

But as the analysts noted, tech layoffs since December 2021 “only sum 187,000 […] a sizeable number for the sector [but] barely more than 0.1% of total US payrolls.” Aggressive hiring by tech companies resulted in payrolls at tech and tech-adjacent companies rising “sharply above [their] pre-pandemic level[s],” leading the broader market, which until recently lagged behind 2019 peak employment.

Morgan Stanley still anticipates a “sharp” dropoff in employment growth, citing slower consumer demand precipitated by higher Federal Reserve rates as a trigger for hiring cutbacks “across most sectors of the economy.”

But for those analysts, the likelihood of major job cuts in non-tech industries remains unlikely. Morgan Stanley analysts pointed out the simple reality: “the [U.S.] economy at large remains short-staffed.”

In other words, even if executives may want to trim the blubber, “there appears to be little fat to cut.”

But the perception of cost efficiency and scrupulous hiring practices may be what the market wants to hear, the analysts wrote. For senior executives at internet firms and in the broader markets, “it is important for companies to evaluate how to better manage cash flow” as they adjust to a “slower ’23 world,” the analysts wrote.

For now, though, tech layoffs are not yet “the canary in the coal mine.”

— CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this report.

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