Scattered layoffs leave workers scrambling as economy cools As companies that experienced explosive growth in the pandemic begin to scale back, some workers are finding themselves suddenly out of work and scrambling to land something new.

As economy cools, scattered layoffs put an end to dream jobs for some workers

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LEILA FADEL, HOST:

It seemed to start in February with Peloton. Twenty percent of the corporate workforce was let go. In recent weeks, a similar scene has played out at other companies, like Carvana, Coinbase, Netflix and Tesla. Some call it a cooling off. But for workers, it's a signal that there may be tough times ahead. NPR's Andrea Hsu has more.

ANDREA HSU, BYLINE: Last October, a week before Tanisha Bates (ph) started a new job, she decided to spruce up her home office. She tore up the carpet and put in new floors, painted the walls, even set up a coffee bar.

TANISHA BATES: I was like, you know what? I'm going to be working from home, so I needed to be, like, my happy, my Zen zone.

HSU: Bates had worked a couple administrative jobs in schools and before that in retail. But she'd had her eye on the corporate world. She was pretty sure the money would be better and the work more fulfilling. Sure enough, last year, a great opportunity surfaced with the online personal styling company Stitch Fix. They were looking for recruiting coordinators, people who could help the company diversify its team of stylists.

BATES: And I was like, oh, my gosh. I definitely want to do this. Like, this is it. This is my breakthrough into the corporate world.

HSU: The job was everything she'd hoped for. And the pay was great. And she could work from home.

BATES: I felt like I finally had, like, this perfect work-life balance.

HSU: And then it all came to an abrupt end a month ago, when she was laid off. It wasn't entirely a surprise. A few months earlier, Stitch Fix's leadership had said things weren't going so well. The company was losing members. It scaled back its compensation package for new hires.

BATES: And I was like, well, that doesn't look too good.

HSU: Then on June 9, Stitch Fix laid off 15% of its salaried workforce, 330 people. It's part of a scattering of layoffs in high growth areas like tech and crypto. But AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist with the job site indeed.com, is quick to point out that layoffs overall are low. And the job market is still strong. Job postings in some fields, like HR and software development, are down.

ANNELIZABETH KONKEL: But they remain quite high above their pre-pandemic baseline.

HSU: Remember, in the pandemic, some employers went crazy trying to hire to meet demand.

KONKEL: And so I think a helpful way to think about what is happening in the labor market right now is that we're seeing some of that frothiness abate.

HSU: As companies return to more normal levels of staffing. Still, losing a job never feels normal, especially when it happens before you've even started. Just ask Andres Crucetta (ph). He had just finished up his master's degree in Chicago and was about to head out to San Francisco for a job with a tech startup when he got an ominous email. It was from the head of engineering with the subject line update. Crucetta knew immediately something was up.

ANDRES CRUCETTA: It's almost like when you get a text for a breakup. And you're like, oh, here we go. She wants to go for a walk (laughter).

HSU: It had only been a month since Crucetta had accepted the job. But in this economy, things change fast. Five days before he was to start, he was informed that the company had implemented a hiring freeze. He says he cried for a little bit and then got to work undoing his plans.

CRUCETTA: I had a air ticket that I needed to cancel, cancel the sublease. I had to figure out where I could stay in Chicago for a few weeks.

HSU: And he's now back interviewing for jobs. He does have a deadline. As an international student, he has 90 days from graduation to find something.

CRUCETTA: I'm very hopeful. I think it's just a matter of going through the process again.

HSU: Tanisha Bates is also interviewing for jobs. It feels different from last fall, she says. Hiring managers seem less engaged. It's like finding talent has been backburnered for now. She's thinking she may have to start considering in-person positions.

BATES: Remote jobs are so competitive because everybody from across the U.S. is applying. It's like going up against the masses.

HSU: So far, she's applied for 70-some jobs and holding out hope that something good comes through.

Andrea Hsu, NPR News.

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