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Walt Disney to Lay Off 32,000 Workers as Pandemic Prompts Further Cuts

Walt Disney plans to lay off 32,000 workers by the end of March as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to slam its theme park and entertainment businesses.

Walt Disney (DIS)  plans to lay off a total of 32,000 employees by the end of March, a further reduction in its workforce as the Covid-19 pandemic and severe drop-off in visitors to its theme parks continues to slam its business.

The layoffs, revealed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Wednesday, are 4,000 more than the 28,000 job cuts announced in September. 

Most of the job cuts will take place in the company's theme parks, where thousands already have been furloughed or laid off. Some 37,000 Disney employees were on furlough as of Oct. 3, according to the filing.

"Due to the current climate, including Covid-19 impacts, and changing environment in which we are operating, the company has generated efficiencies in its staffing, including limiting hiring to critical business roles, furloughs and reductions-in-force," Disney said in the filing.

Like other leisure and entertainment operators, Disney has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, which saw its theme parks shuttered outright in March and has forced the Burbank, Calif.-based entertainment giant to operate at reduced capacity or in some cases keep its turnstiles and gates locked, as has been the case with Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif.

To offset those losses, the company has pivoted to its year-old streaming service, Disney+, allocating more resources to its streaming operations and even shipping some theatrical releases like "Hamilton" and "Mulan" to the platform.

Still, the pandemic’s hit not only to theme park and live-entertainment revenue but also to related sales of merchandise in physical stores has prompted Disney executives to cut costs and re-visit spending plans.

Earlier this month, the company said it was forgoing its January 2021 dividend and instead investing those funds in its streaming division. In its filing Wednesday, Disney warned it could continue to forgo dividends or cut contributions to employee pension and post-retirement medical plans as it continues to rein in costs. It also warned it may cut capital expenditures currently earmarked for theme park expansion plans.

Shares of Disney were down 0.3% at $149.05 in trading on Friday. 

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