Why Walmart Is Laying Off Almost 1,500 Employees

Walmart is a major employer in the state of Georgia, with over 70,000 workers as of 2022, per the company's corporate website. But the status quo in Georgia may soon change. Layoffs are coming to the Atlanta area, and nearly 1,500 employees are expected to lose their jobs.

Unlike typical retail layoffs in years gone by, fueled by industry indicators such as lagging sales or store closings, this shift is different. As far back as 2016, Walmart shuttered 269 stores to focus more intensely on Supercenters and high-performing regional venues, leading to a cut of 10,000 workers in the U.S. market alone, according to CNN. At the time, the company informed investors of an "evolution" in its plans for physical stores, choosing to implement "longer term" business goals.

With the upcoming 2022 layoff of almost 1500 employees, those long-range plans and goals appear to be lunging toward the implantation stage.

Walmart's focus continues to 'evolve'

Nobody expects neighborhood Walmart stores to suddenly disappear. But the Walmart Global Tech department has big projects in mind, ones that have now entered the fast track, including a major shift in the Atlanta workforce. According to Reuters and confirmed by Walmart, 1,458 people employed at the company's Fulton Parkway e-commerce fulfillment center in Atlanta will lose their jobs in the coming weeks and months. Workers received notification at the end of August, and Retail Dive notes that the layoffs will be completed by Dec.2, 2022.

The reduction of employees at the fulfillment center has nothing to do with a decrease in online orders – quite the opposite. Walmart showed a 500% increase in its fulfillment services in 2021, culminating in more than 200 million items available for online purchasing, according to Forbes. The layoffs in Atlanta instead come with plans to convert the existing center into a support hub for the Walmart Fulfilment Services business, a model that relies heavily on marketplace sellers, per a company statement to Reuters.

An important component of the changing Atlanta workforce revolves around Walmart's purchase of robotics company Alert Innovations. The Takeout states that custom bots will efficiently facilitate Walmart customer orders spanning several temperature zones. Retail Dive identifies Alert Innovations as an e-commerce grocery automation firm, and further notes Walmart's recent Symbiotic agreement to deploy end-to-end automation at all regional distribution centers, likely leading to further shifts in the employee workforce.

Harbingers of the upcoming change

To those losing their jobs at Walmart's Fulton Parkway location, it may seem sudden. But the upcoming changes began creeping toward the light in the spring months of 2022. Back in March, the company touted its latest cutting-edge technology while revealing a new approach in employee hiring. Noting the rapid growth of technology graduates from Atlanta universities, the highest rate in America, Walmart announced an initial hiring of 140 full-time Atlanta employee "associates" specializing in the tech field, including data scientists and software engineers. And that's only the beginning.

The Walmart Global Tech corporate department plans to add at least 5,000 technology jobs worldwide, substantially increasing the existing number of 20,000 tech associates. Job seekers can expect openings in not only data science and software engineering, but roles ranging from cybersecurity to data engineers, architects, developers, and technical and product managers. Walmart also announced an increase in drone deliveries to accommodate four million U.S. households. 

In addition to the new Atlanta tech hub, Walmart Global Tech is building a similar major hub in Toronto, Canada, starting with 45 full-time tech associates and increasing to "hundreds" within 12 months.