Mr. Musk and Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Twitter layoffs are unlikely to be the largest in the tech industry by total number. Computer maker HP cut 24,600 employees, about 7.5 percent, in 2008. It later cut tens of thousands more, coming to about 30% of its workforce.
Recently, other tech companies have been cutting jobs. Thursday, Lift It said it would lay off 13 percent, or about 650, of its 5,000 employees. Stripe, the payment processing platform, He said It will cut 14 percent of its jobs, or roughly 1,100.
Jesse Lehrich, founder of Accountable Tech, an industry advocacy organization, said the layoffs were an arbitrary purge just days before Tuesday’s midterm elections.
“There is nothing visionary or innovative about summary firings” by email, he said, especially people with “specialty experience and deep organizational knowledge” and before Mr. Musk appeared to “have a basic understanding of the business.”
While federal and California laws require companies to provide advance notice of mass layoffs, it was not clear whether Mr. Musk had done so. A spokesperson for the California Department of Employment Development said Thursday evening that it has not received such notices from Twitter, which is based in San Francisco, and is expected to report to the agency about mass layoffs.
Under the terms of his Twitter acquisition, Musk agreed to keep employee compensation and benefits as is for one year. Twitter workers typically receive at least two months’ salary and the cash value of the shares they were due to receive within three months of the layoff date, according to an internal benefits summary seen by The Times.
Rumors of impending layoffs spread across the company. On Wednesday, employees took note of Slack’s letter that indicated the possibility of laying off 3,738 people. The letter indicated that changes could still be made to the list, according to a copy seen by The Times.
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