Corporate Layoffs Spread Beyond High-Growth Tech Giants | Kanebridge News
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Corporate Layoffs Spread Beyond High-Growth Tech Giants

Dow, IBM and SAP say they will lay off thousands of workers as belt-tightening becomes the new business priority

Fri, Jan 27, 2023 7:52amGrey Clock 4 min

Dow Inc., International Business Machines Corp. and SAP SE announced plans to cut thousands of jobs to prepare for a darkening economic outlook, as the current wave of corporate layoffs spreads beyond high-growth technology companies.

Together with layoffs announced by manufacturer 3M Co. this week, these companies are trimming more than 10,000 jobs, just a fraction of their total workforces. Still, the decisions mark a shift in sentiment inside executive suites, where many leaders have been holding on to workers after struggling to hire and retain them in recent years when the pandemic disrupted workplaces.

Unlike Microsoft Corp. and Google parent Alphabet Inc., which announced larger layoffs this month, these companies haven’t expanded their workforces dramatically during the pandemic. Instead, the leaders of these global giants said they were shrinking to adjust to slowing growth, or responding to weaker demand for their products.

“We are taking these actions to further optimise our cost structure,” Jim Fitterling, Dow chief executive, said in announcing the cuts, noting the company was navigating “macro uncertainties and challenging energy markets, particularly in Europe.”

The U.S. job market remains historically tight, with unemployment in December at 3.5% matching multi decade lows. The number of job openings still far outpaces the number of people looking for work. The Federal Reserve has been raising interest rates to tame growth and combat high inflation. But CEOs say many companies are beginning to scrutinise hiring more closely.

Slower hiring has already lengthened the time it takes Americans to land a new job. In December, 826,000 unemployed workers had been out of a job for about 3½ to 6 months, up from 526,000 in April 2022, according to the Labor Department.

“Employers are hovering with their feet above the brake. They’re more cautious. They’re more precise in their hiring,” said Jonas Prising, chief executive of ManpowerGroup Inc., a provider of temporary workers. “But they’ve not stopped hiring.”

Additional signs of a cooling economy emerged on Thursday when the Commerce Department said U.S. gross domestic product growth slowed to a 2.9% annual rate in the fourth quarter, down from a 3.2% annual rate in the third quarter.

Not all companies are in layoff mode. Walmart Inc., the country’s biggest private employer, said this week it was raising its starting wages for hourly U.S. workers to $14 from $12, amid a still tight job market for front line workers. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. said Thursday it plans to hire 15,000 new employees to work in its restaurants, while plane maker Airbus SE said it is recruiting over 13,000 new staffers this year. Airbus said 9,000 of the new jobs would be based in Europe with the rest spread among the U.S., China and elsewhere.

General Electric Co., which slashed thousands of aerospace workers in 2020 and is currently laying off 2,000 workers from its wind turbine business, is hiring in other areas. “If you know any welders or machinists, send them my way,” Chief Executive Larry Culp said this week.

Annette Clayton, CEO of North American operations at Schneider Electric SE, a Europe-headquartered energy-management and automation company, said the U.S. needs far more electricians to install electric-vehicle chargers and perform other tasks. “The shortage of electricians is very, very important for us,” she said.

Railroad CSX Corp. told investors on Wednesday that after sustained effort, it had reached its goal of about 7,000 train and engine employees around the beginning of the year, but plans to hire several hundred more people in those roles to serve as a cushion and to accommodate attrition that remains higher than the company would like.

Freeport-McMoRan Inc. executives said Wednesday they expect U.S. labor shortages to continue to crimp production at the mining giant. The company has about 1,300 job openings in a U.S. workforce of about 10,000 to 12,000, and many of its domestic workers are new and need training and experience to match prior expertise, President Kathleen Quirk told analysts.

“We could have in 2022 produced more if we were fully staffed, and I believe that is the case again this year,” Ms. Quirk said.

The latest layoffs are modest relative to the size of these companies. For example, IBM’s plan to eliminate about 3,900 roles would amount to a 1.4% reduction in its head count of 280,000, according to its latest annual report.

The planned 3,000 job cuts at SAP affect about 2.5% of the business-software maker’s global workforce. Finance chief Luka Mucic said the job cuts would be spread across the company’s geographic footprint, with most of them happening outside its home base in Germany. “The purpose is to further focus on strategic growth areas,” Mr. Mucic said. The company employed around 111,015 people on average last year.

Chemicals giant Dow said on Thursday it was trimming about 2,000 employees. The Midland, Mich., company said it currently employs about 37,800 people. Executives said they were targeting $1 billion in cost cuts this year and shutting down some assets to align spending with the macroeconomic environment.

3M, which had about 95,000 employees at the end of 2021, cited weakening consumer demand for its plans to eliminate 2,500 manufacturing jobs. The maker of Scotch tape, Post-it Notes and thousands of other industrial and consumer products said it expects lower sales and profit in 2023.

“We’re looking at everything that we do as we manage through the challenges that we’re facing in the end markets,” 3M Chief Executive Mike Roman said during an earnings conference call. “We expect the demand trends we saw in December to extend through the first half of 2023.”

Some companies still hiring now say the job cuts across the economy are making it easier to find qualified candidates. “We’ve got the pick of the litter,” said Bill McDermott, CEO of business-software provider ServiceNow Inc. “We have so many applicants.”

At Honeywell International Inc., CEO Darius Adamczyk said the job market remains competitive. With the layoffs in technology, though, Mr. Adamczyk said he anticipated that the labor market would likely soften, potentially also expanding the applicants Honeywell could attract.

“We’re probably going to be even more selective than we were before because we’re going to have a broader pool to draw from,” he said.

Across the corporate sphere, many of the layoffs happening now are still small relative to the size of the organisations, said Denis Machuel, CEO of global staffing firm Adecco Group AG.

“I would qualify it more as a recalibration of the workforce than deep cuts,” Mr. Machuel said. “They are adjusting, but they are not cutting the muscle.”


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Why It’s Now Easier to Underestimate Your Expenses and Overspend

Many people are spending more than they think as inflation stays elevated

Tue, Mar 28, 2023 3 min

Many people have a gap between what they think they spend and what they actually spend. This gap has widened recently as the financial and psychological effects of higher prices further strain people’s budgets.

Elevated inflation has rippled through American’s wallets for more than a year now. Some have cut back, while others have increased their spending to keep up. Credit-card balances were staying relatively flat for a while, but have jumped higher recently.

In the fourth quarter of 2022, the average household’s credit-card balance was $9,990, up 9% from in the fourth quarter of 2021, according to WalletHub, a consumer-finance website. Meanwhile, the average credit-card interest rate rose to a record high of about 20% last week, according to Bankrate.

Financial advisers say the larger amount of credit-card debt while rates are higher is one indication that some Americans are spending more than they think they are. This type of spending can reduce people’s ability to pay for important items down the road, such as college for a child or even fund their own retirement. More immediately, it will put people in costlier debt.

“If people spend too much on credit, they could end up trapped in a cycle of debt,” said Courtney Alev, consumer financial advocate at Credit Karma.

Spending less isn’t always possible when everything from groceries to travel is generally more expensive. Still, people can find ways to cut back if they understand more about why they are overspending and take a closer look at their finances.

Inflation on top of inflation

The power of compounding is a boon to investors, but not to shoppers.

Money grows much faster than most people expect because interest is earned on interest, said Michael Liersch, head of Wells Fargo & Co.’s advice and planning centre. A similar concept applies to inflation: Prices rise, and if inflation remains high, prices continue to grow on top of already-inflated prices, leaving people off guard.

“People get constantly surprised that their money isn’t going as far as they thought it would,” he said.

The cost of eating out and going for drinks continues to take Dina Lyon aback. Even though the 36-year-old married mother of one is dining out and ordering in far less than she did a year ago, some prices still give her sticker shock.

“The difference between cooking at home—about $10 for nice pasta and quick sauce from canned tomatoes—versus Italian takeout of $50 is astronomical,” said Ms. Lyon, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Outdated budgets

People tend to underestimate their future spending in large part because they base their predictions on typical expenses that come to mind easily, said Abigail Sussman, a professor of marketing at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

She and other researchers found that when people are coming up with predictions, they tend to think about what they usually spend money on—such as groceries, rent and gas—and base their predictions primarily on these expenses. They are less likely to consider atypical expenses, such as car repairs or birthday presents, the researchers found.

This pattern is particularly problematic when inflation is high, said Prof. Sussman. When the price of the same basket of items rises, people might not account for these price increases in their future budgets, she said.

Further, times of stress cause people to be less intentional about tracking their money, said Mr. Liersch. They might also spend more than they know they can afford to soothe feelings including anxiety and depression.

According to a recent survey by Credit Karma, 39% of Americans identify as emotional spenders (defined by the study as someone who spends money to cope with emotional highs and lows.)

Take control

You have a better chance of staying under budget if you become more aware of your spending instead of sticking your head in the sand, financial advisers said.

One thing Adam Alter, a professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business, does is create a line item in his monthly budget for one-off expenses, such as an unexpected medical bill. This gives him a cushion in his budget and enables him to more fully examine how much he is spending each month, said Prof. Alter, who has studied overspending.

People might also wish to include an escalating buffer into their budgets of say, 2% to 5% a year, to account for inflation, he said.

Jay Zigmont, a financial planner in Water Valley, Miss., looks at clients’ total take-home income from the year, subtracts everything they must spend money on such as their mortgage and how much they saved. The remaining number is how much they spent on discretionary spending.

In most cases, clients are surprised they spent so much, he said.

Once people know how much they spend, Britta Koepf, a financial planner in Independence, Ohio, suggests they practice mindful spending. Before any purchase, ask yourself if you really want or need what you are buying. Frequently, the answer is yes, but sometimes waiting five seconds will prevent you from overspending, she said.

You can also practice mindfulness by delaying purchases further.

“A lot of the time, if I tell myself that I will purchase it next week, I find that I am no longer interested a week later,” she said.


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