Is NH ‘immune’ from tech layoffs?
Amid national cutbacks, there have been few here
Over 50 tech companies have laid off thousands of workers in the Boston area as part of a nationwide wave of staff reductions in the industry — but it hasn’t seemed to have reached New Hampshire.
• Fidelity is adding 87 tech workers at its Merrimack, Nashua and Portsmouth facilities as part of a 4,000-employee job expansion nationwide.
• Red River Computer, the Claremont federal technology contractor, is looking to add another 150 people to its staff.
• Extreme Networks, Salem-based provider of wired and wireless networking equipment, is in the midst of “record hiring” — 175 more people last quarter with another 230 openings to fill.
There have been a few New Hampshire companies that are experiencing reductions, although it’s hard to say how many because, unlike those looking to expand, they are reluctant to talk about it. But on the whole, New Hampshire seems relatively unscathed by the flood of digital pink slips flying out of servers all across the country.
“I wouldn’t say we are immune,” said Julie Demers, executive director of the NH Tech Alliance. “But job postings for tech positions haven’t slowed down. They have accelerated.”
There could be a couple of things going on here, she said. Nationwide, tech companies got caught up in their own euphoria and went on a hiring spree, so they had to make a relatively small correction, even though the numbers in absolute terms “seem shocking” if you look at the actual percentages. The average, she said, is somewhere between 2 and 3 percent. Some of this is repositioning, not due to financial stress, since “some of them are performing really well.”
New Hampshire companies were either “more cautious” and didn’t over-hire, or couldn’t because of the ongoing workforce shortage
“We didn’t experience growth on that scale, so we have no major layoffs like they had in Boston.”
In Boston, the layoffs are so common that The Boston Globe keeps a running scorecard of layoffs announced since June 2022. Among them are:
• Cambridge-based HubSpot announced that it would be laying off 7 percent of its workforce (about 500 employees), on Feb. 3.
• Wayfair laid off 937 Boston-based workers on Jan. 20, on top of 400 workers laid off last August.
• Twitter, which estimated that it was cutting half of its workforce in November, terminated 55 employees at the company’s Boston offices in January.
• Salesforce, which has offices in Burlington and Cambridge, cut its national workforce by 10 percent, or 8,000 employees, on Jan. 6.
All told, from Jan. 6 to Feb. 3 alone, eight companies with employees in the greater Boston area have announced layoffs, most of them sizable.
None of them has offices in the Granite State. But that doesn’t mean the state isn’t affected, because lots of tech workers commute (both physically and digitally) into the Boston area and even work remotely for firms based in other places around the country.
The Globe and other layoff trackers have been able to keep up with reductions partially through the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, which requires companies to give employees and their prospective states notice of mass layoffs.
But there have been only four such filings in New Hampshire since last July, and only one tech company layoff: Parallel Wireless in Nashua, which laid off 85 people on July 1, 2022, shortly after it moved to New Hampshire. The company had 835 workers overall, according to an article in Capacity Media, which estimated that 500 employees were laid off globally. Calls to the company were not returned by NH Business Review deadline.
Another tech company, Brinks Home, a tech home security firm spun off from the Brinks cash delivery service, filed a notice in January that it would lay off 81 workers on March 5, but the company said that was a nationwide figure, and only one field service technician in New Hampshire would be impacted.
A few other national companies have announced small numbers of layoffs, but the impact on New Hampshire also appears to be minimal.
Oracle, a tech giant based in Austin, Texas, reportedly has laid off as many as 200 workers in its cloud division. The company has a total head count of 143,000, including 765 in New Hampshire. (The company did not return inquiries by deadline.)
On a smaller scale, Autodesk, a software company based in San Francisco, has laid off 250, or about 2 percent, of its global workforce, which totals about 12,500.
“This was part of our planning process for the start of our 2024 fiscal year (beginning Feb. 1, 2023), with a focus on ensuring our resources remain well-aligned to support our key priorities for the coming year,” said Renee Francis, director of Autodesk’s brand and corporate communications.
Francis wouldn’t disclose how many of those affected are located in New Hampshire or what the current headcount is at its Manchester office, but according to the NH Business Review Book of Lists, the total was 235 last year.
Still in recruiting mode
It isn’t that companies haven’t noticed a slowdown.
Connection, the Merrimack company that sells hardware and software and provides IT consulting services to businesses, announced it would be cutting $8 million to $10 million in expenses, since it’s earnings fell by about 16 percent in the fourth quarter. And it also said that there would be “economic headwinds” in the first half of this year.
But when asked whether the cutbacks included or ruled out layoffs, the company declined to comment.
Cirtronics, a Milford contract manufacturer for everything from robotics to aerospace customers, has also noticed such headwinds, even though it is still expanding.
“Currently, our business is stable, and we do not foresee a need for staffing changes at this time,” according to a statement released by spokesperson Jessica Kinsey. “Cirtronics does have open job opportunities but are seeing a slowing in our hiring needs.”
Ironically, the company is benefiting from the tech layoffs, she said. “We are seeing more applicants due to other layoffs. This has helped Cirtronics build a pipeline when positions open up.”
Companies that are actually expanding are also taking advantage of the cutbacks by other firms.
“Resumes are on the rise. There is 50 percent growth there,” said Kimberley Basnight, senior vice president of talent and chief diversity officer at Extreme Networks in Salem.
Extreme has 350 to 400 workers in Salem, encompassing about a quarter of its national workforce, said Basnight. It is not clear how many of its 175 recent hires will be in New Hampshire, because it’s really not sure where a lot of its workers will be physically located.
“Almost all our employees are hybrid,” said Basnight. “We pretty much work anywhere.” Indeed, that is a great recruiting tool, she said, especially when companies like Twitter have fired workers who don’t physically come into the office.
That’s one reason the company has been able to attract talent, she said. When it asked applicants why they want to work for Extreme, she said, “Flexibility is in the top three. We declared we are hybrid forever,” she said, though she qualifies that statement by adding, “as long as we have the current leadership.”
Extreme is growing in market share, but that’s not the only reason it needs new workers. It is also rolling out some major products soon, though Basnight won’t disclose what they are.
Red River in Claremont is also allowing remote employment, though perhaps without as much enthusiasm as Extreme.
The company has 680 employees, with 120 based at its Claremont headquarters. It is looking to hire 150, “and we certainly would like them to be based here, if we can find them in New Hampshire” and its other “beehive” in Virginia, said chief operating officer Stan McGee. Instead, it is “a little borderless right now.”
Besides, even if the company finds people willing to relocate to New Hampshire, “housing is so challenging.”
Why is Red River hiring? It has won more federal contracts, mainly from the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration, to update their medical health systems.
Investment giant Fidelity isn’t a tech company, but it uses technology and is growing quickly. Last April, it announced it would be adding 12,000 employees by the end of the third quarter last year, 1,200 of them in New Hampshire.
And just this past Feb. 15 the company announced it would be hiring another 4,000 people — 311 in New Hampshire, with 128 in business support functions, 96 in client-facing roles and 87 tech workers, such as software engineers and data scientists. That adds up to an additional 4 percent to the New Hampshire headcount, which totaled 6,704 at the end of last year.
All this demonstrates that technology is now so integrated into the rest of the economy that’s it’s hard to isolate. Most companies need technology and tech workers to provide a service or a product, and its workforce requirement is more a reflection of that market than the “technology industry” in general.
This is especially true of small niche companies that the Granite State is known for.
Take SpotOn Fence, which manufactures a portable virtual dog fence using GPS technology.
“We been hiring a lot,” said company president Jennifer Joyce, whose workforce has increased from 20 at the start of last year to 30 by March. Most of the roles have been in sales and marketing, but it will be hiring two engineers.
Another example is Talon, a healthcare transparency company that got a shot in the arm when the federal government passed several transparency laws that promised heavy fines for hospitals, insurance companies and employers that don’t comply.
“We tripled our headcount and tripled our space in downtown Portsmouth,” said Mark Galvin, founder and CEO. They are now up to 36 employees.
Galvin is one CEO who insists that his tech workers come into the office. “We have flexibility, but I think with all these Facebook-Twitter-Amazon-Microsoft layoffs, people are beginning to think it’s not a bad idea to show your face at work, so you are not just a statistic to help some bean counter reach their goal.”
Galvin said that Talon has picked up a few “refugees” from other smaller tech companies, including one from Parallel Wireless, though that employee left the company before last year’s layoffs.
“It seems like we are going into recession, and we hear everybody is hunkering down, but we are a bit immune,” Galvin said.
At least for now.