Google layoffs: job cuts affect Google Assistant, Pixel and Fitbit

Google laid off hundreds of employees Wednesday who worked on some of the Silicon Valley giant's most well-known products and brands as it seeks to reduce expenses.

The cuts hit employees who worked on the voice-activated Google Assistant while workers dealing with the hardware for Pixel, Next thermostats and Fitbit fitness trackers were also being let go. The founders of Fitbit, which was acquired by Google in 2021, are reportedly leaving the company too.

Many on the team developing augmented reality were also cut. Core engineering jobs were axed.

Google said it is "responsibly investing in our company’s biggest priorities and the significant opportunities ahead," according to a company statement, cited by the Associated Press.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 19: A sign is posted in front of an office at Google headquarters on December 19, 2023 in Mountain View, California. Google has agreed to pay $700 million as part of an antitrust settlement with U.S. states and co

It's unclear exactly how many positions were eliminated, but last year, Google said it would trim 12,000 jobs from its workforce.

The company is owned by Alphabet and based in Mountain View, Calif.

The Alphabet Workers Union criticized the layoffs as "needless" in a message on X, formerly Twitter.

"Tonight, Google began another round of needless layoffs," the post said. "Our members and teammates work hard every day to build great products for our users, and the company cannot continue to fire our coworkers while making billions every quarter."

Tech recruiter Celeste Shoot says artificial intelligence may play a role in how Google is restructuring, but skilled tech workers are still in high demand. 

"It’s not specifically saying ‘we don’t have A.I. here’ but those candidates’ skills that they were utilizing there are still very much needed in other industries and other companies," said Shoot, Co-founder of tech staffing company Nimble Technology Partners.   

The tech sector has recently been beset by layoffs. Twitch, the San Francisco-based platform for streaming video games, laid off hundreds of employees this week. Splunk, also based in San Francisco, laid off hundreds of its staff in November.

"The economy has shifted a lot over those last four years. We’ve seen inflation come up, now we’ve seen it start coming down. We’ve seen interest rates going up, all of these types of things," tech analyst Ian Sherr told KTVU about a round of layoffs revealed last month that also affected Amazon and Snap. So, it is somewhat part of the natural cycle to see layoffs in some companies,"

Tech analysts also say Google is competing with other major tech firms to be a leader in artificial intelligence and Sherr says that goal is key to who they fire and hire in the future.  

"Now, we need people who are really good at training, programming and designing how people will use artificial intelligence," said Sherr.