by Martin Veitch

Are IBM job cuts evidence of more doom? (Clue: Nope.)

Mar 25, 20093 mins
IT Leadership

I don’t know about you (how could I when we haven’t even met?) but I am pretty confident that I have no clear picture of when we will get out of the recession, downturn or, as I prefer to call it, economic mayonnaise.

Lots of people seem pretty confident that they know a lot about the economic conditions. My friend Nick Spencer told me in the pub the other night that he predicted all this fully three years ago. Sadly, he didn’t know exactly when it was coming and failed to alert Mervyn King, Bank Of England, Fred ‘The Shred’ Goodwin, Gordon Brown, Barack Obama and sundry other interested parties.

Even Nick doesn’t claim to know When All This Will End although he has a theory that “it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better”. He announced this with a meaningful nod of the head and what may have been a wink but could have been a twitch or off-kilter blink.

Some people claim to know when All This Will End, of course. Larry Kantor, chief economist of Barclays Capital, says that it is already ending. The problem is that other experts/pundits/whatever say that really it will be next year, the year after, the year after that, not until 2020, or around about the time the next time Joe Dolce has a number one record.

However, after a few years in the hack trade, I’m pretty convinced that shoving every possible story into the bucket market “credit crunch – will accept any stray content” is what more judgmental people than me would call “lazy journalism”.

Which, finally, brings me to my point. News that IBM might lay off another 5,000 people is not necessarily a sign of impending doom, even if does come on the back of a similar announcement from that other all-powerful industry influencer, Microsoft.

A dirty secret of the ICT industry is that suppliers use people as what might kindly be called a “dynamic resource”. Working for vendors will often mean jumping around between them at the behest of the market, and periods “between jobs” are not uncommon, especially in services. IBM currently employs about 400,000 people and my arithmetic suggests that, while undoubtedly bad news for those concerned, the reduced number will make about one per cent difference to the total size of its workforce.

Job cuts get headlines while hiring programmes rarely do. I still know very little about economics but I won’t be panicking too much about these latest cuts as sign that the end of the world is nigh.