The technology industry is filled with frowny faces right now. Stock and cryptocurrency prices are sinking and anxiety is up. It feels as though each day brings news of some tech company or start-up laying off workers or putting hiring on hold. It happened again on Tuesday when Coinbase, the crypto exchange, said it was cutting 18 percent of its work force.
The pain is real for people who lose their jobs, but behind it is this bigger picture: The job market at technology companies, and for people with high-tech skills, is on fire and staying that way — at least for now.
US unemployment rates for high-tech jobs range from dinky to nonexistent. As soon as one company announces layoffs or hiring freezes for people with those skills, ZipRecruiter sees other employers searching to find and recruit them, according to Julia Pollak, a labor economist with the career website. On average, each tech worker looking for a job is fielding more than two employment offers, the staffing firm Robert Half told me.
“When people say things are slowing, I ask, ‘On what data?” said Ryan Sutton, a district president who is in charge of technology recruiting for Robert Half. “Everyone wants to say the stock market is down. Well, the stock market is not always an indicator of hiring.”
People who specialize in recruiting for tech jobs told me that hiring has slowed in some areas as the stock market has declined and fears about a looming recession have increased.
But they say that right now, the worst you can say about the tech job market is that it has shifted from insane to merely nuts.
The market for tech talent, and for workers of all types at tech companies, is so hot that even job recruitment specialists are being relentlessly headhunted. Just about every time that Georgena Frazier, a recruiter for the rent-to-own real estate start-up Divvy Homes, talked with potential new recruiter candidates this year, they tried to persuade Frazier to work for their company instead.
There are two big reasons the workers remain in demand. There’s a long-term trend of companies wanting to hire more tech workers, and the number of qualified candidates haven’t kept pace. In addition, hiring at many technology companies is also still catching up from the first months of the pandemic when many companies froze hiring or laid off employees, only to have to hire staff members when their business didn’t fall apart.
Susan Dominus, a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, captured the power of tech workers to hop from job to job, and demand and often receive the compensation and work conditions they wanted, in a wonderful article published in February.
“I was really struck by one tech recruiter who left nothing to chance,” Dominus told me. “Even if someone accepted the offer, she kept recruiting for the position, just in case that person bolted the second another better offer came on.”
There are signs that tech hiring has cooled at the margins. Shauna Swerland, the chief executive of recruiting firm Fuel Talent in Seattle, said that she has seen some larger tech companies suddenly pause plans to hire for specific positions — sometimes ending conversations with job candidates in the middle of a second or third round of interviews.
A handful of companies like Coinbase, Twitter and Redfin have revoked a small number of job offers from people who have accepted them. Tech hiring experts said that rescinded job offers are unusual when there isn’t a widespread crisis like a recession or a pandemic. Some companies, as Coinbase said on Tuesday, may have hired too many people too quickly last year when tech was booming.
Stephanie Ciccone-Nascimento, who coaches tech workers, said that she was surprised recently when a company pulled an offer for a sign-on bonus from a candidate she was working with. (The job offer remained.) “There was this moment post-pandemic where candidates had a lot of power in asking for what they wanted,” Ciccone-Nascimento said. “That has reversed quite a bit.”
Having slightly less power over employers might feel disorientating for tech workers, but don’t feel too sorry for them.
More people are employed in tech-related occupations than they were at this point a year ago, according to US government data for several categories of tech jobs that ZipRecruiter’s Pollak analyzed for me. Even Elon Musk, who said this month that he was worried about the economy and that Tesla needed to cut salaried workers, also said that the automaker would likely have more employees in a year than it does now.
Sutton said that about half of tech workers that Robert Half speaks to haven’t changed jobs for several years. He said that they were probably making less than new hires as tech pay has soared in the past couple of years. (Yes, he’s saying that a lot of highly paid tech workers may be underpaid.)
Ciccone-Nascimento said that she’s advising tech workers to stay in their current jobs if they can, but she also sees this moment as a blip in the manic demand for technology specialists in many fields. “There are always jobs,” she said.
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Before we go…
Are drone package deliveries real this time? Amazon said that it planned to make its first deliveries by drone in the United States this year. (The company doesn’t yet have permission from regulators to do so.) That would be about nine years after Jeff Bezos said that Amazon’s drone delivery could be a reality in four or five years.
Chinese companies are snapping up equipment to make computer chips: US officials who are worried about technology competition with China say that the country is building a homegrown chip industry faster than the US can expand domestic chip manufacturing, Bloomberg News reported. (A subscription may be required.)
How virtual reality may help children with autism: Gautham Nagesh writes for The New York Times about a company that is developing virtual reality lessons to help behavioral therapists, speech therapists, special educators and parents who work with autistic children.
Hugs to this
A lawyer and grandmother in the Pittsburgh area had no clue that she beat three professional football players in pickleball. A group photo with “these guys” went viral online. (Pickleball is a paddle ball game similar to tennis. I had to look it up.)
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