Amazon.com Inc. AMZN-Q is slashing some Canadian jobs amid what is believed to be the deepest wave of layoffs in the company’s history, as the tech sector scrambles to cut costs amid a months-long downturn.
The Seattle e-commerce and cloud services giant began the layoffs Tuesday, it said. Staff involved in its Alexa voice-assistant team appear to comprise a significant portion of the cuts, according to social-media posts.
“We’ve been working over the last few months to further prioritize what matters most to our customers and the business,” Dave Limp, Amazon’s senior vice-president of devices and services, wrote in a message to staff the company made public Wednesday. “After a deep set of reviews, we recently decided to consolidate some teams and programs.”
Like many tech executives announcing layoffs in recent months, Mr. Limp attributed Amazon’s decision to “an unusual and uncertain macroeconomic environment.”
It’s been nearly a year since stock markets began to turn on the tech sector, driving down valuations from the historic highs they reached during the digital-services-will-save-us era of the early COVID-19 pandemic. Supply chain crises, and later the war in Ukraine, prompted rising inflation and subsequent interest rate increases around the world – ending an era of cheap capital for an industry that thrived on it for more than a dozen years.
Amazon’s share price is down about 45 per cent from a year ago. Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc., which began laying off 11,000 people last week – including many Canadians – has seen its shares fall by nearly two-thirds. Twitter Inc., which has long struggled to profit, shed about half its staff this month, including much of its Canadian team, after billionaire Elon Musk bought the company and took it private.
Even Shopify Inc., the Amazon e-commerce rival that was Canada’s most valuable company in the early stages of the pandemic, has seen its shares fall more than 75 per cent since last November. It laid off 1,000 people in July.
The New York Times reported earlier this week that Amazon would cut as many as 10,000 people across its devices, retail and human resources departments. On Wednesday, the tech news website BetaKit first reported that Canadians began announcing that they’d been let go.
Canadians revealing their layoffs on LinkedIn were largely engineers in Amazon’s Alexa or broader devices team.
The extent of the Canadian cuts is not yet clear. They appear to be focused on corporate rather than warehouse and delivery positions, which make up the bulk of Amazon’s hundreds of thousands of employees around the world. The company said in July it had nearly 40,000 employees in Canada.
In July, The Globe and Mail reported that Amazon had for years insisted that many senior leaders of its Canadian retail operations be based in Seattle, with significant restrictions on their travel to Canada and the subject matter they were allowed to discuss here. According to documents obtained by The Globe, this allowed the company to limit the profits it booked in Canada for tax purposes, even as it rose to become the country’s dominant online retailer.