Tech Layoffs Shock Young Workers. The Older People? Not So Much.

When Lyft laid off 13% of its workers in November, Kelly Chang was shocked to find herself among the 700 people who lost their jobs at the San Francisco company.

“It seemed like tech companies had so much opportunity,” said Chang, 26. “If you got a job, you made it. It was a sustainable path.”

Brian Pulliam, on the other hand, brushed off the news that crypto exchange Coinbase was eliminating his job. Ever since the 48-year-old engineer was laid off from his first job at the video game company Atari in 2003, he said that he has asked himself once a year, “If I were laid off, what would I do?”

The contrast between Chang’s and Pulliam’s reactions to their respective professional letdowns speaks to a generational divide that is becoming clearer as the tech industry, which expanded rapidly through the pandemic, swings toward mass layoffs.

Microsoft said this week it planned to cut 10,000 jobs, or roughly 5% of its workforce. And Friday morning, Google’s parent company Alphabet said it planned to cut 12,000 jobs, or about 6% of its worker total. Their cuts follow big layoffs at other tech companies such as Meta, Amazon and Salesforce.

Millennials and Generation Z, born between 1981 and 2012, started tech careers during a decadelong expansion when jobs multiplied as fast as iPhone sales. The companies they joined were conquering the world and defying economic rules. And when they went to work at outfits that offered bus rides to the office and amenities including free food and laundry, they weren’t just taking on a new job; they were taking on a lifestyle. Few of them had experienced widespread layoffs.

Baby boomers and members of Generation X, born between 1946 and 1980, on the other hand, lived through the biggest contraction the industry has ever seen. The dot-com crash of the early 2000s eliminated more than 1 million jobs, emptying Silicon Valley’s Highway 101 of commuters as many companies folded overnight.

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