Jan 5, 2023 - Podcasts

Major layoffs for Amazon

Amazon announced on Wednesday that it will cut more than 18,000 jobs. This is the largest of the recent tech layoffs.

  • Plus, after another day of voting, there's still no speaker of the House.
  • And, Israel's new government draws U.S. criticism.

Guests: Axios' Ina Fried and Barak Ravid.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go Deeper:


NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Thursday, January 5th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what we’re watching: after another day of voting, there’s still no speaker of the U.S. House. Plus, Israel’s new government draws American criticism. But first, major job cuts for Amazon’s workforce – that’s today’s One Big Thing.

NIALA: Amazon announced yesterday that it will cut more than 18,000 jobs, the largest of the recent tech layoffs. Axios’ Chief Technology Correspondent Ina Fried is here to put that into context for us.

Ina, what do we know about these layoffs?

INA FRIED: Well, it is the largest by number of any of the tech companies. 18,000 is more than the cuts we've seen at Meta, at Snap, at Twitter. But it, you know, is a reflection of how large Amazon is. You know, other companies are cutting deeper. If you look at Twitter it lost more than half their staff. Obviously, you know, Twitter's a little bit of a unique case. But what we are seeing is a lot of companies looking at what they do and trying to figure out what might not be the best thing in a down economy. And so even on Wednesday, Amazon was not alone in announcing cuts. We saw Salesforce say they're gonna cut 10% of staff. We saw Vimeo, the video site, say they're gonna cut 11% of staff. So I think everyone is looking at their workforce and saying, where might be, we be able to cut back.

NIALA: So these are 18,000 jobs at Amazon. Do we know in what part of the company?

INA: These cuts, those 18,000 jobs that are being eliminated include both some that were made last year, which focused largely on the technology unit that comes up with products like Alexa speakers, as well as newly announced cuts, which are more broad. They said they'll include the people and technology team as well as Amazon stores.

NIALA: Because Amazon is so big, how much do cuts at Amazon multiply or ripple effect across the economy?

INA: Well with Amazon, a lot depends on which part of the company we're talking about. You know, Amazon runs everything from supermarket and retail chains to Amazon Web Services. So each one is gonna have a different impact, but it, you know, a lot of the layoffs do compound each other in the sense that when one company scales back its marketing, that means they're spending less with other companies. When another company cuts jobs, they're spending less on enterprise software because they have fewer employees. So all of these have ripple effects and tend to make the cuts at one company lead to cuts at others. It's one of the reasons the economy is so cyclical.

NIALA: And so is it likely that other tech companies or major employers follow suit here?

INA: I think so. I mean, we've heard from a lot of companies already, but I do think we will see second rounds at some companies that are struggling more economically. And I think even companies that have avoided layoffs to date will probably have to rethink that. It started with hiring freezes, which are obviously a lot less painful, and we saw move pretty quickly across the industry, and I think now we're seeing layoffs the same unfortunately.

NIALA: And, Ina it's fair to say at this point that this does represent a real change after years of boom hiring for the tech industry?

INA: Absolutely. You know, the economy overall is cyclical and we've had some downturns through which the tech industry really just kept growing the pandemic, obviously being a keen example when you know the tech industry was sort of the savior. It was the piece that allowed the economy more broadly to keep moving. And a lot of tech companies have seen it as a war for talent and they've wanted to hire before one of their rivals could. If you look at some of the job growth over the last year or two, it was some pretty astronomical levels especially at Meta, but also at some other companies. And, so that could make this even more painful as companies start to cut back.

NIALA: Axios’ Chief Technology Correspondent Ina Fried. Thanks Ina.

INA: Thanks, Niala.

There’s still no speaker of the House

NIALA: Now the latest on the battle for the speakership in the U.S. House of Representatives.

A second day of voting came and went without a speaker being appointed. 20 far-right Republicans continue to block Kevin McCarthy’s leadership bid.

A total of six rounds of votes have now been taken, with McCarthy failing to get a majority. The House cannot proceed with any other business - including swearing in new members - until a speaker is elected. They’ll meet again at noon today.

Meanwhile…the new Senate is underway and moving. Yesterday, President Biden was with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, touting bipartisanship and the infrastructure bill. A sharp contrast to the continued chaos in the House.

In a moment, a week filled with controversy for Israel’s new government.


Israel’s new government draws US criticism

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo.

Israel's National Security Minister, the far-right Itamar Ben-Gvir stirred controversy well beyond Israel's borders this week with a visit to a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem. The U.S. has expressed concern about this and other moves from Israel's new government, headed once again by Benjamin Netanyahu. Axios Tel Aviv's Barak Ravid has the story. Hey, Barak.

BARAK RAVID: Hi, Niala. How are you?

NIALA: Barak, can you catch us up? Why did Ben-Gvir’s trip cause such an outcry?

BARAK: Well, first because of the place he went to what is called by Jews in Israel, the Temple Mount, which is the holiest site for Jews. But what is called by Muslims, Haram al-Sharif or the Al-Aqsa mosque, which is the third most holiest site for Muslims around the world. This is the most sensitive place in Jerusalem and in Israel as a whole, and I think one of the most sensitive places in the region.

And when someone who for years advocated for changing the status quo at the Temple Mount and even advocated for building a synagogue at the Temple Mount. And is and has expressed numerous times Jewish supremacist views. So, when he visits there as the Minister of National Security of Israel that's a big story. And I think that this is why the response by the Biden administration was so immediate and quite actually quite strong. And I think that everybody realizes that, you know, the Temple Mount is a place that the next war can start from. It happened in May 2021 and it could happen again.

NIALA: Israel's new foreign minister, Eli Cohen, also came under criticism for suggesting a new stance on the Ukraine war. What was that?

BARAK: Well, I think that sometimes when you try to analyze something that a politician said, then there's always this dilemma whether this is “House of Cards” or “Saturday Night Live,” and I think that in this case it was “Saturday Night Live.” Meaning it was more of a new minister without a lot of experience talking about issues that he doesn't really know. And not some sort of a conspiracy about a policy shift. And I think the Israeli foreign Ministry has been doing some damage control trying to explain to everybody that, you know, there was no intention to change the policy and that basically, you know, nothing's changed.

NIALA: What else are you hearing from Netanyahu's government at this point?

BARAK: I think that the main thing that happened this week, you know, if you put aside Ben-Gvir’s shenanigans and the Temple Mount, and if you put aside the new foreign minister's gaffes. The real important thing that happened this week was when, the new minister of justice on Wednesday evening presented what he called his plan for judicial reform, which is, you know, if I need to translate it into language that people really understand, it's basically his plan to dramatically weaken Israel's judiciary. And mainly the Supreme Court, making it less independent, making it more controllable by politicians. It's basically a plan that would change Israel's democratic system to something which is less democratic. And I think that in a country like Israel that doesn't have a constitution like in America and that doesn't have, House of Representatives and a Senate that can balance each other. Such a plan is a real threat for the democracy.

NIALA: Barak Ravid is a contributing correspondent for Axios based in Tel Aviv. Thanks, Barak.

BARAK: Thank you.

NIALA: That’s it for us today! If you have a moment we would love it if you would leave us a starred review on Apple Podcasts because it makes it easier for other people to find the show. Or if you have a moment share Axios Today with a friend.

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

Go deeper