Though the Tech American Foundation reports the tech sector added 103,000 jobs in the first half of 2013, a huge talent gap still exists, says Michael Kirven, CEO of IT resourcing and recruiting firm Mondo.
"I was actually surprised that number wasn't higher; our customers still struggle to find good people to fill their available seats," Kirven says.
"In the tech arena, we've seen only a 1 percent to 2 percent unemployment rate among professionals these last three years, almost as though it's an entirely separate economy," Kirven says.
So Much for Government Work
But as the U.S. government remains shut down, that unemployment rate among tech professionals could rise, opening up a huge pool of talent suddenly eager to explore new opportunities in the private sector, Kirven says.
"If I'm looking for good people, the best place to look for them right now is one of the largest 'companies' in the world - the U.S. government," Kirven says. "If I were a CIO, I would look at this situation and say, 'These people still have mortgages, car payments, groceries to buy. They need a paycheck.' There is no way to tell how long this shutdown could last, so I'd be looking to poach talent from the government," he says.
Many government employees felt their positions were, if not the highest-paid in technology, at least stable and unlikely to be affected by the whims of a fragile economy, he says. But that's clearly no longer the case, so there could be as many as 40,000 to 50,000 available workers looking to make a change, he says.
In fact, Kirven says his firm is advising customers to offer signing bonuses and other lucrative incentives to persuade government employees to come to the private sector.
Shutdown May Spur IT Pros to Go It Alone
In addition, Kirven says, a shutdown may increase the number of available independent IT contract workers who, burned by the shutdown, decide to strike out on their own instead of tying their fortunes to one particular employer.
"Even before this shutdown, we noticed a trend toward companies looking to use an 'elastic' workforce; to be able to add and subtract teams of skilled professionals on an as-needed basis to deal with strategic projects," he says.
"Our customers used to be more concerned with how to get and keep permanent employees in the seats, but no longer. And for workers, the stigma of the 'perma-lancer' has gone away, and more and more professionals want to work for themselves and not limit their opportunities or their skills to one company," Kirven says.
Sharon Florentine covers IT careers and data center topics for CIO.com. Follow Sharon on Twitter @MyShar0na. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook.