The cuts represent only about 1 per cent of the total workforce. Image Credit: Shutterstock Inc. has started its biggest-ever round of jobs cuts - a culling that will ultimately affect 18,000 workers around the globe.

Amazon began notifying employees by email early on Wednesday, Doug Herrington, the company’s worldwide retail chief, said in a memo. He said the company aimed to communicate with all laid-off workers in the US, Canada and Costa Rica by the end of the day. Notifications in China will be sent after the Chinese New Year, and in other regions the company must consult with employee representatives before finalising layoffs.

The world’s largest e-commerce company is grappling with slowing online sales growth and bracing for a possible recession that could affect the spending power of its customers. Microsoft Corp. announced it was cutting 10,000 jobs on Wednesday, becoming the latest in a long line of tech companies to trim its ranks.

Herrington said Amazon’s cuts were part of an effort to lower costs “so we can continue investing in the wide selection, low prices and fast shipping that our customers love”. He said the company would “continue investing meaningfully” in growth areas including groceries, Amazon’s business-to-business sales program, services for third-party sellers and healthcare.

The eliminations started last year and initially fell hardest on Amazon’s Devices and Services group, which builds the Alexa digital assistant and Echo smart speakers. The latest round will mostly affect the retail division and human resources.

While the cuts represent only about 1 per cent of the total workforce, which includes hundreds of thousands of hourly warehouse and delivery personnel, they amount to about 6 per cent of Amazon’s 350,000 corporate employees around the globe.

The Seattle-based company spent much of last year adjusting to a sharp slowdown in e-commerce growth as shoppers returned to pre-pandemic habits. Amazon delayed warehouse openings and halted hiring in its retail group. It broadened the freeze to the company’s corporate staff and then began making cuts.

Amazon is among several large tech companies that are trimming their ranks, including Cisco Systems Inc., Intel Corp., Meta Platforms Inc., Qualcomm Inc. and Salesforce Inc.

In his memo, Herrington said the Seattle-based company would provide severance, transitional health benefits and job placement to affected workers.