Grim January for Tech Jobs

The damage to Bay State technology employment rolls was far greater in January than in any month since the downturn began. By Xconomy’s count, New England tech firms laid off at least 5,675 workers as 2009 began, compared to 2,028 layoffs in November and 1,428 in December, the two worst months prior to January.

Massive job cuts at two firms at the foundations of the local technology economy were the prime contributors to January’s grim statistics. Hopkinton, MA-based EMC announced January 7 that it would lay off 2,400 workers, and Bose in Framingham, MA, said it would let 1,000 workers go on January 20.

But other major area employers weren’t far behind: Brooks Automation in Chelmsford, MA, announced 550 layoffs on January 26; Sepracor, the Marlborough, MA-based maker of Lunesta sleeping pills, announced it would eliminate 530 jobs on January 29; and Teradyne in North Reading, MA, closed out the month on January 30 by announcing it would cut its workforce by 532 positions. (Not all of these reported cuts will affect Massachusetts employees—in most cases, companies don’t break down their reduction-in-force announcements by region.)

The cuts at local firms were merely a reflection of the national trend, of course. In 2008, technology companies laid off nearly 187,000 people altogether, according to a count last week by Chicago-based employment agency Challenger, Gray, and Christmas. While the company hasn’t finished compiling January figures, it said “technology firms appear to be continuing their job-cutting spree in 2009,” with giants like Sprint/Nextel, Microsoft, Motorola, IBM, Intel, and AMD leading the way.

We’ve been tallying up the local job losses on our Boston Tech Layoff Tracker, which we’ll continue to update as the layoff reports come in. Here’s what the January figures looked like, in the end:

CompanyAffected LocationDate# of layoffs% of staff
TeradyneNorth Reading1/30/200953214%
Altus PharmaceuticalsWaltham1/26/200910775%
Brooks AutomationChelmsford1/26/200955030%
Sonus NetworksWestford1/13/2009404%
GreenFuel TechnologiesCambridge1/12/20091945%
One Laptop Per ChildCambridge1/7/20093250%

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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