In a bid to streamline operations and prioritize investments in artificial intelligence (AI), Google executed a significant round of layoffs on Wednesday night, affecting multiple divisions within the tech giant. The company’s move aligns with a broader industry trend, as various tech companies have slashed jobs this year amid economic uncertainties.
According to sources familiar with the matter, Google terminated employees in its core engineering division, the team behind the Google Assistant (a voice-operated virtual assistant), and the hardware division responsible for products like the Pixel phone, Fitbit watches, and Nest thermostat.
The layoffs impacted several hundred employees in the core engineering organization, with affected individuals losing corporate access and receiving notifications of their roles being eliminated. Google specifically mentioned that most of the hardware cuts targeted a team focused on augmented reality, a technology blending the real world with a digital overlay.
Text reviewed by The New York Times revealed that affected workers received messages stating, “We’ve had to make some difficult decisions about ongoing employment of some Google employees, and we regret to inform you that your position is being eliminated.”
Google confirmed the cuts in the Google Assistant division, as reported by Semafor, and the hardware division layoffs, as reported by 9to5Google.
A Google spokesman acknowledged the workforce adjustments, stating, “We’re responsibly investing in our company’s biggest priorities and the significant opportunities ahead.” The company indicated that organizational changes, including role eliminations, were ongoing globally, following a series of cuts in the latter half of 2023.
These layoffs follow a broader industry trend, with major companies like Google, Meta, and Amazon laying off thousands of workers in the previous year. In the first days of the current year, additional companies have announced job cuts, including Amazon’s layoffs in its Twitch streaming service, Prime Video, and MGM studios, Xerox’s plans to cut 15 percent of its staff, and Unity Software’s announcement of a 25 percent reduction in its workforce.
Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai has been steering the company towards a sharper focus since July 2022, emphasizing cost reduction amid global economic challenges. In January 2023, Google laid off 6 percent of its workforce, or 12,000 people, marking the largest layoffs in the company’s history. Executives have since reiterated their commitment to cost reduction while concentrating on the expanding field of generative artificial intelligence.
While Google, with 182,000 employees as of September 30, described the recent layoffs as part of routine reorganizations, the Alphabet Workers Union, representing over 1,400 workers at Alphabet (Google’s parent company), criticized the move as “needless.” The union emphasized the company’s financial success and questioned the rationale behind firing employees while generating substantial quarterly profits.