Houghton Mifflin Harcourt cuts 525 jobs as COVID-19 accelerates online learning

Boston-based textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt said Thursday it is laying off 525 employees as the coronavirus pandemic accelerates the shift to digital learning tools.

The company disclosed in a public filing that the reduction comes as part of Houghton Mifflin’s “ongoing assessment of its cost structure amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” and it is in line with the digital strategy the company first proposed to investors last October. The company’s stock closed up over 16 percent on the news.

A company spokesperson declined to break down how many Boston employees have been affected.

The layoff — along with a recently introduced early retirement program, which 166 employees opted into means the company has trimmed its workforce by 22 percent. That figure accounts for an undisclosed number of newly added digital-first jobs.

“As districts embrace new remote learning formats and rely more heavily on digital solutions than ever before, HMH is well-positioned to be a holistic partner in delivering successful outcomes and supporting educators and the students they serve,” said chief executive Jack Lynch in a press release.

Beyond workforce reductions, Houghton Mifflin said it will also save on manufacturing costs by shifting the business from print to digital offerings. The company plans to “retire” older systems and print-centric processes. Lynch said the new structure creates a “more focused company with increased recurring digital subscription revenue that produces higher margins and free cash flow.”

The company expects the restructuring to result in savings of up to $100 million annually. In a December 2019 annual filing, the company reported having approximately 3,400 employees.


Anissa Gardizy can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @anissagardizy8.

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