DURHAM – Google is changing the focus of its in-house experimental incubator (Area 120) and will wind down half of the internal group’s projects, which could result in layoffs. But as news of these cuts emerged comes word that Google may soon end a hiring freeze for its cloud business.

The big question in the Triangle: Will the cuts or undoing of a hiring freeze have any impact on its emerging engineering hub in Durham?

For right now the answer is no.

“We’re proud to have exceeded our hiring goals in Durham and look forward to continued growth,” a Google spokesperson tells WRAL TechWire.

CEO Sundar Pichai said in July that Google would slow hiring but that layoffs were not planned. And the focus of staffing up the engineering hub in Durham remains a priority, the spokesperson explained.

“As Sundar announced in July, we’re slowing our hiring and sharpening our focus as a company, but we remain focused on hiring engineering, technical and other critical roles. We continue to look for ways we can increase our productivity and ensure we’re focused on our long-term priorities,” the spokesperson said.

The company maintains a large presence in Durham, with Google Cloud employees working in the region, following the company’s selection of the site for an engineering hub last year that could eventually house 1,000 workers.

The most recent WRAL TechWire Jobs Report found that there were 211 jobs at Google that were open as of Monday.

Layoffs expanding across tech sector, surpassing 42,000 in US

But that’s fallen from mid-August, when the company had 371 open roles to fill in the Triangle.

A year ago, a local Google exec told WRAL TechWire that the company could not hire fast enough in the Triangle.

Area 120 update

The latest on Area 120:

“Area 120 is an in-house incubator for experimental and new products. The group regularly starts and stops projects with an eye towards pursuing the most promising opportunities. We’ve recently shared that Area 120 will be shifting its focus to projects that build on Google’s deep investment in AI and have the potential to solve important user problems,” Google told WRAL TechWie in a statement.

“As a result, Area 120 is winding down several projects to make way for new work. Impacted team members will receive dedicated support as they explore new projects and opportunities at Google.

According to TechCrunch, Google told its Area 120 staff that there would be a “reduction in force.”

Cloud hiring reportedly to resume

Meanwhile, Google’s vice president for technical infrastructure, Brad Calder, has reportedly sent a memo that Google was ending a hiring free “for a few areas” by October. That’s according to a report in Business Insider and cited by WebPro news.

The news about Area 120, was reported last week by TechCrunch.  And that report followed comments made by Google Pichai at the Code Conference earlier this month as reported by CNBC.

The reports lead some to believe layoffs may be coming to the tech giant.

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