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Layoffs & Hiring Freezes Spread as Markets Falter Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

AlphaSense Staff

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As cities across the globe implement social distancing measures and many face full shutdowns, Coronavirus is not only impacting daily life -- it’s cutting off some industries at the knees. 

From restaurants and bars, to sporting, entertainment, travel and retail, declining consumer confidence is causing major turmoil as China reports losses in retail traffic and sales. On the back of the travel industry calling off guidance in previous weeks, US store closures serve to harden the blow and domestic retailers are beginning to follow suit, withdrawing earnings outlooks for the year.

While last week’s jobs claims report didn’t show any signs of layoffs, early signs across the globe in PR statements point towards this trend worsening in travel, retail and other consumer discretionary markets. As of Thursday, the Department of Labor is citing a skyrocket in unemployment claims, attributing COVID-19 to the increase. Who is talking about how COVID-19 is impacting their businesses? Learn which companies are communicating on Coronavirus’s impact on layoffs and hiring. 

*These impacts will affect every human. Please consider donating to or volunteering for causes on the front lines of COVID-19 relief. Here are a few of our favorites:


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Here are the highlights. [Note: We are updating this post and our compilation post to reflect the most recent commentary. Last updated 3/20]


  • Airlines and cruise lines report first layoffs as demand takes a sharp decline
  • Service workers in the food and beverage space are impacted as restaurants, bars and retailers face closures
  • Workers in entertainment services, venues, and hotels reduce operating costs, citing temporary layoffs  
  • Amazon is a bright spot in the jobs market, planning to hire thousands of additional workers to support demand 


JPMorgan (PR - 3/20)

JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) has said that it will temporarily close about 20 percent of its branches.

The bank said that the closures have been prompted by COVID-19.

The firm also said that it would reduce staff in order to cope with the situation.


Credit Suisse (PR - 3/18)

Swiss bank, Credit Suisse (NYSE CS) is laying off markets professionals following a change at the top of the company.

The firm has started identifying redundancies in global markets last week and the layoffs are likely to affect around 30 people. The bank has not made an official comment. The layoffs are not understood to be coronavirus-related.

The cuts come despite a strong year for Credit Suisse's global markets business in 2019.


Marriott (PR - 3/18)

The company is taking numerous proactive steps to mitigate the negative financial and operational impacts of COVID-19.  Business contingency plans have been implemented and will continue to be adjusted in response to the global situation. At the property level, contingency plans include measures such as closing food and beverage outlets, reducing staff and closing floors or even entire hotels.  The company has also temporarily deferred most brand standards to help owners and franchisees, including delaying renovations due in 2020 by one year, deferring required furniture, fixtures and equipment funding and suspending brand standard audits. 

At the corporate level, these steps include making significant cuts in senior executive salaries, requiring temporary leaves in North America, shortening work weeks around the world and cancelling non-essential travel and spending.  Marriott estimates these cost cutting measures will reduce 2020 corporate general and administrative costs by at least $140 million.  As additional measures continue to be implemented, this number is expected to grow.  The company has also taken steps to dramatically reduce costs related to programs and services that hotels reimburse it for, such as marketing costs, to be more in-line with the expected decline in funding given likely lower systemwide revenues. The company has also reviewed its investment spending plans and currently expects to eliminate or defer at least one-third of its prior forecast of $700 to $800 million of spend in 2020, generally proceeding with funding only when the company was previously obligated. 


United Airlines (PR - 3/17)

United Airlines (NASDAQ: UAL) CEO, Oscar Munoz and president J. Scott Kirby have issued a message to United's nearly 100,000 employees regarding the impact of the coronavirus on the company's business and the steps the airline is taking to manage it, the company said.

The statement addressed the impact of the virus on United's business has become worse with the new travel restrictions for the UK and Ireland. Munoz and Kirby said they feel an obligation to run the company in a way that protects the employees and to be open about the decisions facing the airlines.

The United leaders acknowledged March as its busiest month of the year, but is projecting that revenue in March 2020 will be USD 1.5 billion lower than last March.

United has taken steps to manage the crisis by reducing schedules, imposing a hiring freeze, introducing a voluntary leave program, reducing discretionary spending, cutting the CEO base by 100% and deferring a salary increase. Competitors have started to follow suit.


Amazon (Market News - 3/17)

Amazon plans to hire an extra 100,000 workers in the US and raise pay rates to deal with a surge in demand as consumers avoid shops and stock up online because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The technology firm said it needs an unprecedented amount of labour for this time of the year and is willing to pay more to attract enough staff.


Shake Shack (PR - 3/17)

Pandemics or disease outbreaks such as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19 virus) have and may continue to impact customer traffic at our restaurants, may make it more difficult to staff our restaurants and, in more severe cases, may cause a temporary inability to obtain supplies, increase commodity costs or cause closures of our affected restaurants, sometimes for prolonged periods of time. We have temporarily shifted to a “to-go” only operating model in our domestic company-operated Shacks, suspending sit-down dining. We have also implemented closures, modified hours or reductions in on-site staff, resulting in cancelled shifts for some of our employees. COVID-19 may also materially adversely affect our ability to implement our growth plans, including delays in construction of new restaurants or adversely impact our overall ability to successfully execute our plans to enter into new markets. These changes and any additional changes may materially adversely affect our business or results of operations, and may impact our liquidity or financial condition, particularly if these changes are in place for a significant amount of time.


Abraxas Petroleum (Market News - 3/17)

06:50 AM EDT, 03/17/2020 (MT Newswires) -- Abraxas Petroleum (AXAS) said Monday that it had implemented cost-saving measures, including salary reduction, board size reduction, and selective layoffs as a response to current market conditions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company said these steps will reduce administrative expenses by about 40%. Capital expenditures will be temporarily limited to minor projects, and drilling and well completion will also be suspended.


Lift & Co (PR - 3/17)

Lift & Co. Corp. has temporarily laid off members of its work force and paused operations of non-profitable business segments due to extenuating circumstances outside of the company's control.

Specifically, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects the pandemic is having on event businesses around the world, the Company has made difficult and strategic decisions intended to preserve cash and long-term shareholder value. The Company remains committed to continuing its profitable Lift & Co. Expo and CannSell lines of business which will be operationally unaffected by these changes.


Tix Corporation (PR - 3/17)

Our Tix4Tonight business is located in Las Vegas where we sell shows, attractions, tours and dining from our nine ticket booths that are strategically located on the Strip. Due to efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, virtually all Las Vegas entertainment, restaurants, bars, and  major hotel properties such as Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts International have closed.  With the closure of entertainment on the Las Vegas Strip, and therefore the cessation of revenue for our business, we effected a layoff of the majority of our employees, closed our ticket booths, and continue to significantly reduce our operating costs. We will continually monitor the Las Vegas marketplace to determine when and if we will be able to commence operations again.  We intend to seek available disaster assistance, as well as forms of financing to help with liquidity during this disruption to our business.  We will be assisting our employees to obtain any federal and state assistance that may be available to them. We are grateful to our staff for their years and decades of dedication and superb talent they have given the company.  We wish them well during this very difficult period.


Brussels Airlines (Market News - 3/17)

Brussels Airlines has just over 4,000 employees and operates 48 aircraft to 115 destinations -- mainly in Europe and Africa -- and in 2018 had revenue of 1.5 billion euros.

Official travel bans and passenger uncertainty triggered by the coronavirus outbreak have threatened the survival of many carriers world wide, and thousands of staff have been laid off.


Scandic Hotels  (PR - 3/16)

Intensified measures of authorities to stop the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) have led to continued worsening of the business situation for Scandic Hotels Group AB. Today, Scandic will give notice of termination of employment to approximately 2,000 team members in Sweden, which corresponds to about half of the company's permanent employees in the country. Significant cutbacks will also be necessary in Scandic's other markets.


Azul SA (PR - 3/16)

12:02 PM EDT, 03/16/2020 (MT Newswires) -- Azul (AZUL), a Brazilian carrier, said Monday it decided to cut capacity by 20%-25% in March and by 35% to 50% in April and beyond in response to the economic impact caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The company said its moves are meant to preserve its cash position as the economy struggles.

Azul also decided to cut the executives' salary by 25%, freeze hiring, ground aircraft, and suspend all new aircraft deliveries as part of its cost-cutting measures.


Southwest Airlines (News - 3/16)

"The company has experienced more dramatic declines in passenger bookings in March and second quarter 2020, as well as an unprecedented increase in close-in trip cancellations. The company has recently experienced several days of net negative bookings, primarily in March and April 2020, where trip cancellations outpaced new passenger bookings. The company's month-to-date load factor through March 15, 2020, was approximately 67 percent, with recent days trending toward 50 percent. As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic grows, and based on current booking and cancellation trends, we expect revenue trends for the remainder of March and second quarter 2020 to deteriorate further."

As far as actions, Southwest is reducing capacity by 20% after April 14 and instituting a hiring freeze. Southwest has also drawn down the full $1.0B under its $1.0B revolving credit facility expiring in August 2022.


Scandinavian Airlines (PR - 3/16)

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has announced that due to non-existent demand for air travel, it has put most of its operations on hold, the company said.

The measures come amid the grounding of thousands of planes worldwide as countries step up their measures to deal with the outbreak.

SAS said it would suspend operations and would not recommence services until necessary prerequisites for commercial air traffic returns.

The airline said to support customers, it will do its best to uphold a certain level of operation to enable travellers to return from their destinations.

The firm will temporarily lay off around 90 per cent of its staff and reduce services, with only domestic operations and a few European flights continuing.


British Airways (PR - 3/16)

British Airways in survival fight as rivals plead for government bailouts; British Airways is in talks with unions about job cuts as Norwegian faces an anxious wait for a bailout and Lufthansa requests state help

British Airways warned the coronavirus pandemic has caused a crisis 'of global proportions like no other we have known' as governments prepared to start bailing out cash-strapped airlines


MGM Resorts (PR - 3/16)

Both MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts announced plans to close in Las Vegas beginning Tuesday to stem the huge crowds that routinely flood the gambling mecca.

“It is now apparent that this is a public health crisis that requires major collective action if we are to slow its progression,” MGM CEO and chairman Jim Murren said in a statement.

MGM already started making “significant furloughs and layoffs,” the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, noting at least 150 food and beverage outlets have been closed at its properties.

It includes jobs gone from its household-name venues like The Mirage, the Bellagio and New York-New York, sources told the Review-Journal.


Samsung (Market News - 3/13)

SEOUL, March 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's major conglomerates pushed back their hiring schedules due to the novel coronavirus, industry officials said Friday, amid concerns that they may scale down their employment plans in the first half of the year.

Samsung Group, South Korea's largest conglomerate, said it is very likely to postpone its first-half hiring event that usually takes place in March. Industry officials said they expect Samsung's recruitment process to be delayed a month.


Emerson Electric (JPMorgan Industrials Conference - 3/12)

Answer – Charles Stephen Tusa: We're at a point where other corporates are going to kind of follow your lead and start to cut heads. So we see that in the jobs, the jobs numbers and...

Answer – David N. Farr: I think they're going to be very, very cautious right now because of the paranoia around the coronavirus. So I think they're going to be very nervous about cutting heads. I think they're going to be very careful about it.

Answer – Charles Stephen Tusa: So we won't know really until kind of probably first quarter earnings reports you know...

Answer – David N. Farr: People might say, okay, it is not...

Answer – Charles Stephen Tusa: I've seen enough now. I know whether I need to cut or not.

Answer – David N. Farr: But now from my standpoint, since we've already started restructuring, I have the flexibility to do it because I have already started. And -- but the issue is, I think they're probably adjusting them off at this point in time and say, "hey, do I do this?" And I think that you'll start seeing it in that April, May, June time period. I personally think that this thing that when the heat gets here, this thing will slow down, people get back out. I mean people get hard at being in a building all day long, I mean, by themselves. And from that perspective, I think people will start traveling again sometimes in the summer.


Norwegian (IR Circulars - 3/12)

During a pandemic it is Norwegian’s policy to prioritize and safeguard the health and well-being of employees while ensuring Norwegian's ability to maintain essential operations and continue providing services to our customers.

Due to the extraordinary market situation as a result of the coronavirus, and thus a dramatic drop in customers and subsequent production decline, we must look at all possible measures to reduce costs. This unfortunately also includes temporary layoffs of up to 50 percent of our employees and the number may increase. All departments will be affected by the temporary layoffs.

We have initiated, in consultation with the unions, a discussion and mapping process and will then return with leave notices to affected departments, stations and employees.


Finnair (Market News - 2/28)

Finland’s national airline also said on Friday was scrapping its capacity growth target for this year, and would look into cutting costs by 40-50 million euros ($44-54 million), with measures under consideration including temporary layoffs.

Its shares dropped nearly 6% after the Helsinki market open.

“Finnair currently estimates that the coronavirus situation will decrease demand, resulting in a negative impact on revenue for Q2 2020,” the company said in a statement, adding this would result in a “significantly lower” operating profit for the year.


Solvay SA (Market News - 2/28)

Belgian chemicals giant Solvay, facing difficulties linked to the coronavirus and the Boeing 737 MAX scandal, on Wednesday announced plans to cut 350 jobs around the world by the end of 2021.


HSBC (Boston Globe - 2/19)

HONG KONG — HSBC plans to cut 35,000 jobs over the next three years as the global bank scales back its Western operations to focus on faster-growing Asian markets, particularly China.

Yet the announcement from the London bank on Tuesday that it aims to cut $4.5 billion in costs comes as it faces headwinds like the coronavirus outbreak in China and months of political strife in Hong Kong, one of its most important markets.

The coronavirus is causing economic disruptions in Hong Kong and mainland China that could have a negative impact on performance this year, the bank warned. It lowered expectations for growth across Asia for this year but added that it expected to see some improvement once the virus was contained. Nearly half of the bank's revenue comes from Asia.


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