Research in Motion, reeling as its BlackBerry takes a beating from the Apple iPhone and assorted Android smartphones, is expected to lay off anywhere from 2,000 to 6,000 employees to cut costs and turn around its financial fortunes. While the exact number of layoffs from RIM's 16,000-plus staff remains to be confirmed, the restructured company appears headed for a high rank on this year's list of tech industry layoffs.
LOOK BACK: Bloodiest tech industry layoffs of 2011
RIM will have plenty of company from other telecom companies, including Nokia, which said in February it would whack 4,000 jobs upon moving more of its manufacturing from Europe and Mexico to Asia, where factories have larger scale and closer proximity to component makers. The moves dovetail with Nokia's effort to ramp up Windows Phone production as it focuses on that market in light of falling Symbian-based smartphone sales. Nokia finished its fiscal 2011 year with revenue down 21% in the fourth quarter and reported a loss, rather than a profit as it had the year before in the fourth quarter.
Nokia figured prominently among last year's top tech job cutters, axing some 7,500 jobs while refocusing on Windows Phone and handing over Symbian activities to Accenture.
Also on the telecom front, T-Mobile and Sprint have announced layoffs this year.
T-Mobile, recovering from the FCC's shooting down of its proposed $39 billion merger with AT&T, announced in March that call center consolidation would cost 1,900 workers their jobs. One AT&T official blamed the FCC's decision not to OK the deal for the T-Mobile layoffs.
T-Mobile announced another 350 jobs cuts in May.
Rival Sprint said in February that it would slash jobs in the wake of a January management reshuffling, and according to a FierceWireless report at the time, the number of jobs affected was expected to be about 100 of about 40,000. Related, Sprint network operator Ericsson reportedly began laying off 10% of its 14,000-person North American workforce in March, weeding out its lowest performers.
Other big bloodlettings this year from technology ranks:
*The job cuts cited above pale in comparison to HP's recently announced plans to slash 8% of its workforce via layoffs and retirement offers, which translates into about 27,000 jobs. The company expects the cuts to save it $3 billion to $3.5 billion in fiscal year 2014. The job cuts are "difficult" but they also are "necessary to improve execution and to fund long-term health" of HP, CEO Meg Whitman said in a statement.
*Sony said in April it will cut about 10,000 of its 168,000 worldwide employees as part of a restructuring plan. Some of the workforce reduction will come by spinning off non-core businesses, including chemical operations and LCD screen production. Sony lost about $2.7 billion in its fiscal year ended in March. The company, which has lost ground in areas such as TVs, is refocusing on consumer products such as phones and tablets.
*NEC kicked off 2012 by announcing it would cut 10,000 workers, including 3,000 outside of Japan, while forecasting a $1.3 billion loss in the fiscal year ended in March. The company's smartphone business has suffered from incursions by other companies into the Japanese market, while NEC has also continued to suffer from flood-ruined plants in Thailand.
*Yahoo, which continues to take a pounding from Google and others, said in April job cuts would enable it to go forward as a smaller, more profitable company focused on its "core media, connections and commerce businesses." Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson said the company was reducing its workforce by about 2,000 people, or 14% overall, and as it turns out, those numbers wound up including Thompson himself after it was revealed he had embellished his resume.
*Computerworld reported in March that IBM cut 1,000 workers in the United States, though details on where within IBM the cuts were made is fuzzy. IBM is estimated to employ a little less than 100,000 people in the United States, and more than 400,000 worldwide.
*Finally, one workforce reduction that might hit especially close to home for Network World's IT professional readers: Lloyds Banking Group is offshoring some 300 IT roles to suppliers, and cutting another 100 IT workers. The cuts are part of the company's 1,600-job reduction across the United Kingdom, according to an IDG/Computerworld UK report.
According to jobs watcher Challenger, Gray & Christmas, 4,845 computer industry jobs were lost through April in the United States, plus another 7,421 in telecom. That's up from the 2,301 computer jobs and 4,752 telecom jobs lost through April 2011.
But on the bright side, IT jobs continued to grow briskly overall in April, according to TechServe Alliance, a collaboration of IT services firms, clients and customers that bases its findings on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. In April, the number of IT jobs grew by 17,000 or 0.4% sequentially to 4,168,700, according to TechServe Alliance. April marks the fourth straight month in which IT employment has reached a new record high. IT jobs rose by 117,000, or 2.9%, in the past 12 months.