The rumors that Meta Platforms would be the next tech giant to slash staff came true Wednesday morning for Katie Apone, a Washington state-based Meta employee of five years.
Apone found a message from Meta waiting in her professional and personal email accounts. It said she was being laid off.
There was no explanation of why she was among the 11,000 employees who were laid off, Apone said. The cuts affected 13% of the Facebook and Instagram parent company’s total workforce and were the largest in Meta’s history.
Meta declined to disclose how many workers at its Seattle-area offices have been let go. The company has 8,800 employees at local offices, according to figures from the Puget Sound Business Journal. Meta had a total of 87,000 employees in September.
Based in Olalla, Kitsap County, Apone is permanently remote but previously worked at the Arbor Blocks location in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood.
Apone only has access to her professional email, but she is locked out of other company systems and can’t communicate with colleagues outside of email. She said that Meta was a connected workplace that facilitated interactions with coworkers online. But being cut off from Workplace — Meta’s internal version of Facebook — left her isolated from colleagues who had become part of her life.
“Being locked out of everything today, it feels like I’m going through this big, scary thing,” she said.
Apone was a content designer and worked with advertising. Meta’s ad business is one of the most important drivers of revenue. It is also a source of revenue loss, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said. This summer, the company posted its first quarterly revenue decline in history, followed by another, bigger decline in the fall.
“Unfortunately, this did not play out the way I expected,” Zuckerberg said in a statement. “Not only has online commerce returned to prior trends, but the macroeconomic downturn, increased competition and ads signal loss have caused our revenue to be much lower than I’d expected.”
Just as she found out about the coming layoffs from reading the news, she learned about how ads were affecting the business by news stories and earnings calls. Still, conversations about the business weren’t part of her work, she said. She and her team built advertising and content products for Meta’s business suite.
It is not yet known how many employees from the local offices will be affected. State officials said the company has not yet filed a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification. Washington state requires employers of more than 100 people to disclose layoffs in a WARN notice.
In his letter, Zuckerberg said Meta will cut its real estate footprint. This marked a shift from 2021, when Meta bought REI’s unused 400,000-square-foot headquarters for nearly $368 million in Bellevue.
At the time, Meta spokesperson Tracy Clayton said “the company’s offices are still vitally important to help accommodate anticipated growth and meet the needs of our employees that need or prefer to work from campus.”
It is unclear how Meta’s real estate slashing will affect the Seattle area. The company has offices in South Lake Union, Redmond and Bellevue.
Before the layoffs, Meta announced a hiring halt until the first quarter of 2023. Its stock has fallen more than 70% in 2022, trading at levels last seen seven years ago.
Meta reported accelerating revenue decline during its September earnings call. It cited challenging business conditions as the reason — a tough economy, losses in its advertising business and an expensive, low-return “metaverse” investment.
“I got this wrong, and I take responsibility for that,” Zuckerberg said in the statement.
Meta, like other social media companies, enjoyed a financial boost during the pandemic-lockdown era because more people stayed home and scrolled on their phones and computers. But as the lockdowns ended and people started going outside again, revenue growth began to falter.
Meta poured over $10 billion a year into the metaverse as it shifts its focus away from social media. Zuckerberg predicts the metaverse, an immersive digital universe, will eventually replace smartphones as the primary way people use technology.
“They are making a big bet on something that may not happen for another five to 10 years,” Forrester Research analyst J.P. Gownder said. “What they need to be doing is trying to solve some of their fundamental business problems. This (mass layoff) is only a stopgap.”
Although Meta has been hurt by broader economic trends that have curtailed spending on digital ads, the company’s challenges have been compounded by the rise of TikTok at the same time Zuckerberg is pouring billions into a metaverse that so far seems like a distant mirage, Grownder said.
Besides Meta, Twitter and Redfin have also announced layoffs affecting workers at Washington offices. Twitter announced mass layoffs that cut half its workforce, including 208 employees at its Seattle office. On Wednesday, Seattle-based Redfin announced total layoffs of 862 jobs, including 75 in Washington.
This report includes information from the Associated Press.
-By Renata Geraldo, The Seattle Times