Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc. META-Q began laying off 11,000 people worldwide Wednesday, including in Canada, becoming the latest company to dramatically slash costs after years of rapid growth in the technology sector.
Meta has found itself in a triple bind this year. The tech giant is grappling with a sector-wide slowdown, a rocky rebranding to focus on immersive virtual-reality experiences and a sharp downturn in digital advertising, which underpins much of its traditional business line. Its profit last quarter fell by more than half year-over-year, to US$4.4-billion, as the average price per ad on its platforms fell 18 per cent.
Chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg said in a letter to employees that the layoffs amounted to 13 per cent of Meta’s staff, calling the cuts “a last resort” as the company cut discretionary spending and extended a hiring freeze into its next fiscal year.
Like many tech executives in recent months, including Shopify Inc. CEO Tobias Lutke, Mr. Zuckerberg acknowledged that he had incorrectly planned for a future in which the frenzied pandemic rush into online spending would be sustained.
“I got this wrong,” Mr. Zuckerberg wrote, later adding: “We’re restructuring teams to increase our efficiency. But these measures alone won’t bring our expenses in line with our revenue growth, so I’ve also made the hard decision to let people go.”
The news comes just months after Meta and other massive U.S. technology companies were bidding up the price of Canadian tech talent, sending salaries up as much as 30 per cent year-over-year in tech companies of all sizes across the country. In late March, Meta said it would hire an additional 2,500 staff in Canada over five years – many of them remote positions, though the company also announced a new engineering hub in Toronto.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford praised the job announcement at the time, calling it an opportunity to “demonstrate that our tech talent no longer has to look elsewhere to pursue their careers.” Asked about the layoffs at a press conference on Wednesday, Mr. Ford said he had not been told how the cuts would affect Meta’s operations in the province.
Meta spokesperson Alex Kucharski would not share any details about how Wednesday’s cuts would change the company’s Canadian hiring and engineering-hub plans, including whether they would be scrapped, despite repeated requests from The Globe and Mail. Instead, Mr. Kucharski said in an e-mail that “our expansion in Canada was always a long term one planned over a number of years. We remain committed to Canada and look forward to many years of innovation ahead in Toronto.”
Meta owns Instagram, WhatsApp and the Facebook platform. Last year, it began an extensive, controversial rebranding to focus on 3-D immersive experiences to bring people together in what it calls the “metaverse.” The company’s Reality Labs division, which oversees this work, posted an operating loss of US$3.7-billion in its most recent quarter.
A LinkedIn analysis suggests Meta has at least 1,100 staff in Canada. Its Canadian office declined to say how many people in this country would be affected by Wednesday’s cuts, but numerous employees across Canada have been announcing their own layoffs on social media.
Mitchell Steiman, who was hired at Meta in July as a client partner for emerging businesses on Facebook and Instagram, said he was laid off. “It was everything that I could have hoped for in a role, and more. I will miss the people and culture there immensely,” he wrote on LinkedIn Wednesday. His position was based in the Greater Toronto Area.
“In my small team, 9 out 10 teammates were laid off,” said Lois Wang, a technical recruiter at Meta based in Toronto, writing on LinkedIn that she had been there for just under a year before what she called the “massive” layoffs that particularly affected the company’s recruiting teams.
“I believe that being optimistic and hopeful is the best way to get through a tough time like this,” she said.
Meta said laid-off staff in the United States would receive 16 weeks of pay, along with two more weeks for each year at the company. Three laid-off Canadian staff, whose names are being withheld by The Globe because they are legally bound to not speak publicly about internal communications at Meta, said the company had revoked their accounts and services but had not yet told them the terms of their severance packages by Wednesday afternoon.
Meta saw its first-ever revenue drops as a public company in the past two quarters. Its shares are down nearly 70 per cent this year, though they popped 5.18 per cent upon Wednesday’s news, closing at US$101.47 on the Nasdaq.
Across Canada, high-profile companies including e-commerce platform Shopify SHOP-T, investment firm Wealthsimple Technologies Inc. and social-media management company Hootsuite Inc. have all shed hundreds of staff in recent months. Last week, Twitter Inc.’s new owner Elon Musk began a 50-per-cent cut of the social network’s staff, which included numerous Canadians, as he began drastically retooling the chronically unprofitable company.
The sector had experienced unbridled growth since the Great Recession ushered in more than a dozen years of low interest rates, fostering a digital economy that hinged on social platforms and mobile computing. But macro factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, war in Ukraine and their twinned supply-chain constraints have altered global dynamics.
It’s been nearly a year since public markets began turning against the sector as inflation worries turned into fears of rising interest rates and cut into tech valuations. Those fears were confirmed by this past March, as central bankers began jacking up rates. Tech companies big and small began slashing costs – and jobs – as a result.
With a report from Jeff Gray.