Employment outlook gets murkier at tech companies

Amid a "hiring chill" in Redmond, CNET News checked in with other big tech giants on their personnel plans.

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
3 min read

With Microsoft having, at the very least a "hiring chill," we decided to check in with other big tech giants on their hiring plans.

It's a little hard to get a clear picture of what other companies are doing--in part because so many have already announced plans to cut jobs. Intel's workforce is down thousands from where it was a couple years ago. Hewlett-Packard has already said it plans to shave 24,000 jobs as part of its EDS purchase, while Dell and others have also been cutting back.

Yahoo, already under pressure from competitor Google and the ugly saga of Microsoft's attempt to acquire the company, said Friday that it is bracing itself for a weaker advertising market.

"We believe it's imperative we align our cost structure with today's economic realities," said Yahoo spokesman Brad Williams. "We've been looking at ways to streamline our processes and bring more efficiencies to how we work as an organization," he said, and the company hired Bain & Co. to "help us identify opportunities for improvement."

He wouldn't confirm that layoffs are part of the plan, but payroll is a major expense, and most employees know how to read the tea leaves when they hear the word "streamline."

Though Yahoo is under pressure itself, Williams said the economy and the advertising market led to the current analysis. "The collapse of the credit markets...accelerated what had been a pretty uncertain market," he said.

For its part, Google said "We continue to hire talented people across functions for our offices worldwide." Of course, the real question is at what pace they continue that hiring.

In a meeting with reporters Wednesday, Chief Executive Eric Schmidt supplied a big dose of caution about whether there might be effects from the broader economic issues.

"It's a very dynamic situation. There is evidence credit is a problem for certain sectors. We have not yet seen any impact from it," Schmidt said. But, he added, "We might. All bets are off. Nobody knows."

Many expect TV and print advertising to be hit harder, but that doesn't mean online ads are immune. Even if individual ads or campaigns are profitable, the ad market can be hurt when customers tighten their purse strings and advertisers reduce spending.

Most other companies didn't have much new to say on a Friday afternoon, but it's fair to say that every company has got to be taking a second look at those 2009 numbers. Anyway, here's what several big names did have to say on the matter.

Dell: Dell spokesman David Frink said the company is certainly monitoring things, but had nothing new to announce. "But as you know, we've got a well publicized effort under way to reduce costs," Frink said. Dell has cut 8,500 workers from its ranks in the last four quarters. That said, Frink said Dell "will selectively hire in areas that are important."

HP: "Workforce rebalancing is a continual activity across our businesses and geographies to ensure that resources are aligned with the opportunities in the market," HP said in a statement. "We expect that our overhead costs, which include IT, real estate and shared support functions, will decline more from (fiscal 2007 to fiscal 2009) than they did from (fiscal 2005 to fiscal 2006)."

IBM: "We haven't announced any freeze," an IBM representative said. As of right now, nothing has changed at IBM. We continue to hire in key skills areas."

McAfee: "McAfee has not changed its hiring process and continues to make strategic investments in its personnel," A company representative told CNET News. "We continue to add to our headcount. McAfee has grown significantly over the past quarters."

Microsoft: "Microsoft will continue to grow and add thousands of new jobs this year, but given the current economic environment, we are taking the prudent step of reviewing our hiring plans and will make some adjustments as appropriate," spokesman Lou Gellos said in a statement. "We are optimistic about our prospects for growth and will continue hiring the talent we need to ensure our ongoing success."

Intel: Declined to comment, citing a pre-earnings announcement quiet period.

Apple: Declined to comment, also citing a pre-earnings quiet period.

Oracle: Declined to comment.

CNET News' Charles Cooper, Stephen Shankland, and Robert Vamosi contributed to this report.