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caption: In this Feb. 14, 2019, file photo, people stand in the lobby for Amazon offices in New York.
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In this Feb. 14, 2019, file photo, people stand in the lobby for Amazon offices in New York.

Amazon shifts its thinking as it sheds 18K employees: Today So Far

  • Amazon is now cutting 18,000 jobs, more than previously expected.
  • Microsoft employees have started the company's first union.

This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for January 5, 2023.

When word got out in November that Amazon was preparing to make job cuts, the estimate was that the online retail giant would nix about 10,000 positions. Now, that number has inflated to more than 18,000.

"This is the biggest layoff in the company's history, it's also the biggest layoff in the past year among major tech companies, and there have been quite a few," GeekWire's Todd Bishop told KUOW this morning. "More than that, it's really a signal of a change in mindset for the company."

That mindset will be more "scrappy," and a return to the company's roots, Bishop said, noting Amazon is trying to simplify its corporate side. While the layoffs will only be about 1% of Amazon's 1.5 million workforce, Bishop said it adds up to about 5% of the corporate workforce.

"So if you take that 5% ratio and apply it to the 75,000 (employees in the Seattle area), you're somewhere in the realm of 4,000 workers (in the Seattle area) that are primarily in devices and books," he said.

Amazon plans to start letting affected employees know on Jan. 18. In a blog post, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy commented on "the difficult decision to eliminate additional roles." The jobs slated to be cut are not in warehouses or among hourly paid jobs. Rather, Amazon is targeting its stores and PXT organizations.

What is a PXT job? I was wondering the same thing. As far as I can tell it's one of those departments that Chandler Bing would work in because — through all the jargon and generic language — nobody knows what they do. According to Amazon's PXT website, the " People Experience and Technology Solutions" department "eat our own dog food by using our own solutions."

According to Bishop, PXT is Amazon speak for "human resources."

"Amazon has weathered uncertain and difficult economies in the past, and we will continue to do so," Jassy said in his blog post. "These changes will help us pursue our long-term opportunities with a stronger cost structure; however, I’m also optimistic that we’ll be inventive, resourceful, and scrappy in this time when we’re not hiring expansively and eliminating some roles."

January is reportedly the biggest month for layoffs. Tech, health care, banking, and finance are expected to shed the most jobs in 2023. One-third of companies expect to cut 30% or more of their workforce this year. NPR also has more on this, as well as a few tips for folks facing layoffs.

In other Northwest tech news, employees have formed the first union at Microsoft. The union emerged from the company's game testers. Yes, that is an actual job, and no, I am not making fun of it by pointing that out. Despite shrinking revenue last year, the video game industry still pulls in nearly $184 billion in revenue. It spans games on your smartphone to "Minecraft," "Fortnite," "Call of Duty," you name it. I play "Catan" on my phone — a board game, on my phone. That's all to say, being such a significant industry, these games better be tested before you release a mistake and lose money.

A group of Microsoft employees working at its ZeniMax Studios formed the union and joined Communications Workers of America. ZeniMax Studios produces "Elder Scrolls," "DOOM," and "Fallout," among others. Since the union effort began late last year, Microsoft said it wouldn't interfere and would let employees make their own decisions. According CWA President Chris Shelton, "Microsoft has lived up to its commitment to its workers and let them decide for themselves whether they want a union." Read more here.

AS SEEN ON KUOW

caption: Washington Senator Patty Murray is sworn in as president pro tem, January 3, 2023.
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Washington Senator Patty Murray is sworn in as president pro tem, January 3, 2023.

Washington Senator Patty Murray is sworn in as president pro tem, January 3, 2023. Normally, the president pro tem is third in line to the presidency, but Sen. Murray is now temporarily second in line behind Vice President Kamala Harris, because the House has yet to elect a new speaker. (Patty Murray)

DID YOU KNOW?: Don't use these words

You're going to have to go on a vocab diet in 2023, according to the nerds at Lake Superior State University. The faculty at the Michigan college have come up with their annual list of words and phrases people should just stop using in 2023. Faculty argue these words and phrases should be banished for "misuse, overuse and uselessness."

What are they? Well the list starts with "GOAT," as in you are the "greatest of all time."

I never much liked "GOAT" in the first place. It's a nice sentiment, but who wants to be likened to a goat? Why not "BEAR" for "bringing excellence and respect."? Or "SHARK" for "so hard at rocking and kicking it"? Sure, those are reaching pretty hard, but it is what it is. "It is what it is," is a phrase I am not dropping. Sometimes, it really just is what it is.

I am open to any other animal-based ideas for complimenting people, other than GOAT. Feel free to email me at dyer@kuow.org.

What are the other words and phrases banished from 2023? Check them out here.

ALSO ON OUR MINDS

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America needs carpenters and plumbers. Try telling that to Gen Z

The number of young people seeking technical jobs — like plumbing, building and electrical work — dropped by 49% in 2022 compared to 2020. While the creation of technical positions has continued to grow, the number of students interested in applying for them — hasn't. Occupations such as auto technician with aging workforces have the U.S. Chamber of Commerce warning of a "massive" shortage of skilled workers in 2023.

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