White-collar workers bear brunt of downturn

Last week, Matt Motyl received a box in the mail with two yellow emoji Christmas ornaments: one shocked, another crying a single tear. On the outside, Motyl’s name scrawled in black marker, beneath the word “Leaver.”

The strangely timed box of holiday cheer was sent by Facebook parent company Meta, which laid Motyl off, among 11,000 others in November. (Meta told The Washington Post that these were sent to Motyl “under the assumption they were his personal items.”)

Motyl is among tens of thousands of professional workers dealing with a rough end to 2022. PepsiCo, Amazon, Cisco and Snap have all announced plans to slash head counts in the past month or so, sowing further uncertainty heading into what could be a turbulent 2023. By November’s end, more than 80,000 tech workers had been laid off, according to an estimate by Challenger, Gray and Christmas. And many companies across finance and media, from Citigroup and Morgan Stanley to CNN, BuzzFeed and The Washington Post, have also announced they are axing employees.

For workers preparing for the holidays, the timing couldn’t be worse — although federal data shows that December and January tend to be popular months for layoffs, because corporate budgets often restart when the calendar changes.

This holiday season, it’s mostly those white-collar professionals taking the hit.

In early December, David Weinstein learned he was being laid off from his job as vice president of production with Complex Networks, as part of a larger restructuring by its parent company, BuzzFeed. In a note to employees affected by the cuts, BuzzFeed chief executive Jonah Peretti said the move would help the company “weather an economic downturn that I believe will extend well into 2023” and adapt to changing consumer appetites.

Weinstein, 44, had watched layoff announcements from other companies in media over the past few months, but the possibility of him being cut by BuzzFeed wasn’t on his radar.

“There’ve been layoffs all year long, it seems like, in our industry,” Weinstein said. “At this point, I feel a certain amount of solidarity with everybody else. I didn’t think about it much until it hit us.”

He’s been tapping his networks, posting more often on LinkedIn and Instagram and scheduling lunches he hopes could lead to something. He’s optimistic, but he’s also trying to be realistic.

“I also know that it’s right before Christmas and right before the new year,” Weinstein said. “I’m not counting on a new position or a new role to magically appear.”

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