by Meridith Levinson

Market for Tech Jobs Remains Volatile

Jun 09, 20093 mins
CareersIT JobsIT Leadership

Despite some hiring gains, most technical industry sectors shed jobs by the hundreds or thousands in May, according to the latest employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As a result of the ongoing economic instability, IT managers are being cautious about hiring.

Frustrated with your job search? You have good reason to be. Despite signs that the worst of the recession may be moderating, the market for tech jobs remains unstable.

Of the technical industry sectors tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the professional and technical services segment has seen the worst of the job cuts. It has hemorrhaged tens of thousands of jobs each month since the start of the year: To date, the professional and technical services sector lost 132,500 jobs.

The semiconductor and electronic components sector and the computer systems design and related services sector have also continued to shed jobs mostly by the thousands each month since January 2009.

After gaining a few hundred jobs in January, computer and peripheral manufacturing, and data processing, hosting and related services have lost hundreds or thousands of jobs each month.

The industry segment with the brightest outlook for jobs appears to be management and technical consulting services: It’s netted 2,400 jobs since the beginning of the year.

2009 Tech Employment Statistics

Industry Sector
Jan. Feb. Mar. April May
Computer and Peripheral +700 -3,100 -1,500 -2,900 -3,200
Semiconductor and Electronic Components -5,900 -6,600 -3,200 -6,900 -5,900
Data Processing, Hosted and Related Services +200 -2,000 -200 -900 -3,500
Computer Systems Design and Related Services -3,500 -300 -3,900 -1,400 -2,800
Professional and Technical Services -28,600 -36,700 -31,300 -17,100 -18,800
Management and Technical Consulting Services +11,000 -4,800 -6,100 +1,600 +700

Despite those small gains, the ongoing job losses point to the economy’s continued volatility.

Technology recruiters and hiring managers are reacting to the economic uncertainty by being cautious, says Tom Silver, senior vice president and CMO of Dice, an online job board for technology professionals.

“Hiring managers are expecting things to get a little bit worse before things get better,” he says.

Indeed, 43 percent of 1,900 technology recruiters and hiring managers recently surveyed by Dice say layoffs inside their organizations are likely or very likely during the next six months. (However, 43 percent say their organizations are unlikely to do a layoff during the same period.)

Because they don’t know when the economy will begin to rebound, technology recruiters and hiring managers are being cautious about hiring through the end of the year. The overwhelming majority of survey respondents—81 percent—say they’ve scaled back their hiring plans. That’s up from 72 percent six months ago, says Silver.

It’s no surprise, then, that the number of job postings on is down by 45 percent year to date, according to Silver.

Hiring managers’ caution is also manifesting itself in the time they’re taking to select candidates for the few positions they do have open. Some are taking their time because they don’t know what the economy will bring, while others feel they can be picky about finding the perfect candidate, says Silver—though the latter’s choosiness may prevent them from finding any candidate. Dice’s survey notes that 9 percent of hiring managers say they can’t find qualified professionals to fill their open positions.

To make matters worse for IT job seekers, salary negotiations aren’t in their favor, either. When asked about salaries for new hires, 41 percent of survey respondents said they were slightly lower than last year, 35 percent said they were the same, and 17 percent said they were significantly lower.

The good news for the 4.9 percent of technology professionals who are unemployed? Silver says 91 percent of survey respondents have at least one open position. It may be hard to fill, but it’s available for the right candidate.