Kevin Bourrillion is not your run-of-the-mill software engineer. As a developer at Google for over 19 years, he founded and led the company's Java Core Libraries team. According to GitHub, a site that functions as a library for computer geeks to check in and out code, Bourrillion's library is "widely used on most Java projects within Google, and widely used by many other companies as well."
This 43-year-old engineer was among the hundreds laid off by Google this week. In lengthy posts on X, formerly known as Twitter, Bourrillion displayed no anger over his former employer. "Layoffs suck, but in my case... it's fine because I've needed some kind of change in my life for a very long time. And I have no plans to rush into anything else right now. I've got too much to do: cycling, reading, restarting my drum lessons, travel, family time. etc. etc."
The first bi-weekly paycheck has just been cut for 2024, and the media is already awash in news stories about layoffs. According to Layoffs.fyi, a website that tracks tech industry firings, 1,185 tech companies let go of 262,582 employees in 2023. A Wired magazine story put the number at 400,000 over two years. For an industry that ran out of workers to hire during the pandemic, it isn't easy to accept that nearly a half million highly skilled workers are now desperately looking for employment.
And job reductions are not limited to the tech industry either. "Citigroup is planning to lay off 20,000 employees, or about 10% of its workforce, in the next two years as it comes off its worst quarterly financial results in more than a decade," screamed the opening line of a CBS Moneywatch report. This story was on top of the 60,000 global bank layoffs in 2023 story documented by the Financial Times.
As we noted in August, the Biden economy has been a significant disaster for college students, a reliable Democratic constituency. Many companies held out on making returning offers to interns who slogged through last summer trying to impress their bosses. High interest rates and an uncertain economy disproportionately impacted white-collared interns in tech, financial services, and consulting as companies pared back hiring.
During any other election season, the media would be all over such stories, running them on an endless tape with chevrons showing how disastrous hiring has become. But the media is trying its best to provide cover for the Biden administration as it did during the 2020 cycle: it is not only suppressing bad news stories but also exaggerating the good things about the Biden economy, however irrelevant.
An annoyed Fareed Zakaria, the scholarly CNN anchor of Fareed Zakaria GPS, stopped short of ridiculing the American electorate for their stupidity. "Look at surveys from the past few months, and you will find that strikingly high numbers of Americans, sometimes about three-quarters of those polled, think America is on the wrong track. This profound sense of despair is perplexing because I don't find much objective data to support it."
He then rattled off a carefully curated set of macroeconomic indicators that shows how supremely well the Biden economy has been working:
The U.S. economy grew an astonishing 5.2% in the third quarter of 2023. The IMF expects growth for the last year to be 2.1%, which is substantially better than other advanced Western nations, such as Canada, the U.K., and Germany. Inflation is dropping sharply, real wages are up, and manufacturing employment is experiencing a boom. It's hard to find another country where so many measures are pointing in the right direction.
Mark Twain famously popularized the saying, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." Zakaria was pulling a Mark Twain by pointing his audience to all kinds of meaningless statistical indicators that have little bearing on the typical individual who wakes up in the morning, gets to work, shops at a grocery store on the way home, and struggles to make ends meet while poring over bills at the dining table.
Had Zakaria consulted our regular reporting, he would have known the truth:
- Bidenflation at 16.6% erodes Americans' purchasing power.
- Annualized Bidenflation hits 5.7%, nearly double the CPI.
- Real wages lag 2.5% since Biden took office.
Meanwhile, residential mortgage rates have been hovering around 7% for the last five months, the highest in over 20 years. According to the Mortgage Professor, a 30-year $500,000 loan at 7% will cost a household a whopping $3,362 a month in mortgage payments (not including taxes, insurance, and maintenance). As a result, the big builders are scaling back on developing new housing projects when America faces an acute housing shortage, compounded by a new external factor unknown to most Americans from prior decades: There are nearly seven million illegal immigrants spanning the country, adding to the demand and worsening the housing crisis.
Layoffs affecting upscale white-collar employees, who typically vote for Democrats in elections, are terrible news for the Biden campaign. The ones who probably made millions over the years encashing stock options will do just fine. The rest of the workforce must confront the Biden economy without a regular paycheck coming in. They also have to contend with the threat of Artificial Intelligence. In March, a Goldman Sachs report said that generative AI could impact 300 million jobs globally, with 37% of U.S. jobs in architecture and engineering. Fareed Zakaria, please note.
Rajkamal Rao is a columnist and a member of the tippinsights editorial board. He is an American entrepreneur and wrote the WorldView column for the Hindu BusinessLine, India's second-largest financial newspaper, on the economy, politics, immigration, foreign affairs, and sports.
Related - Sample layoff announcements in 2024 (Full list here)
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