IT careers: 8 telling statistics on jobs and hiring now

What's happening in the IT jobs market during the pandemic? What roles are more or less in demand? Let's dig into some recent IT careers data points
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IT careers 2020

This is a time of uncertainty for everyone in every industry, about job prospects and job security – among many other things. Will people in IT who play their cards right avoid the worst of the impacts on the economy? It may depend on your specialty.

“In IT right now, if it’s value-based and companies can make money off of it, I think salaries will go up – one of the few areas where salaries will be going up,” says Jay A. Block, a career coach, author, and coach to other career coaches.

What's an in-demand IT job skill set right now? Think security.

“Given these uncertain times, and with all of the remote work taking place, information security talent at all levels will continue to be in high demand for the foreseeable future,” Kelly Doyle, managing director, Heller Search Associates, an executive search firm that specializes in CIOs and other IT leaders, told us recently.

You don’t have to be an economist to forecast that the current crisis is accelerating a transition from face-to-face to remote interaction, mediated by Zoom and other technologies, Block says, so naturally, technologists who position themselves well should prosper. Of course, he adds, “that’s just my opinion.” Let’s delve into some recent data points:

[ Read also: IT career goals 2020: Most-wanted technology and core skills. ]

1. Tech job postings were up in the first three months of the year, topping 300,000 in March, according to a Dice Tech Job Report that shows the early impact of COVID-19’s effect on the economy. Dice saw well over 50,000 job postings per week in the first months of the year, with spikes in demand in February and postings in early April still about where they were in January.

Art Zeile, CEO of Dice parent company DHI Group, Inc., provided additional commentary via email, saying he was confident the trends from the first three months of the year are still holding up in May: “Over the past several weeks, we’ve seen a stable number of tech job postings, roughly in line with the trailing twelve-month average and similar to what other online recruiting sites have reported, as enterprises look to accelerate the use of technology in their business. Now more than ever, businesses realize they need an online business model, a way of delivering services without being face-to-face, and a way to manage their remote employees effectively.” 

2. However, the IT jobs picture is less rosy according to CompTIA data, which shows 112,000 U.S. IT jobs lost in April, in what the WSJ reported was a record drop. The WSJ also noted that Labor Department data (released in early May) finds 20.5 million U.S. jobs cut across all occupations in April.

3. 11 percent of companies tracked by the Conference Board are cutting executive pay, including some in tech. The Conference Board, a nonprofit organization that tracks economic statistics and corporate governance practices, has put out a report on all the organizations currently cutting executive pay, usually starting at the C-suite but in many cases trickling farther down the organization.

As FastCompany points out, “Some of the findings may surprise you: For instance, the salary reductions are not just hitting top executives and their fat bonuses. At last count, 61 percent of the affected companies applied pay reductions to the base salaries of senior managers who make less than top-tier executives, the Conference Board says. It adds that 11 percent of all companies in the index announced base pay cuts between March 1 and April 24.”

Of the companies cutting salaries and bonuses, 6.6 percent are in information technology — although some, like Expedia, are also travel and hospitality companies.

Some tech firms are asking employees to help them stay solvent by switching more of their compensation from cash to stock.

In the context of the overall tech job market, those impacts have been relatively minor, Dice's Zeile says – largely confined to those companies whose technologies tied to sectors of the economy that have been directly affected by stay-at-home orders. He points to Lyft reducing executive pay by 20-30 percent.

4. The number-one reason technologists change employers is to seek higher compensation (71 percent), Zeile points out, according to Dice’s 2020 Tech Salary Report. That’s followed by seeking better working conditions (47 percent). For all the stress they’re under, companies can’t afford to lose their best people right now, he says.

5. Some cybersecurity jobs have seen a roughly 20 percent surge in demand: This one was somewhat predictable, given the rapidity with which many more employees than ever before suddenly found themselves working from home, placing unprecedented stress on virtual private networks and other systems for securing work-at-home arrangements.

Some of the most interesting statistics in the Dice jobs report cover what changed between February and March, as the impact of stay-at-home orders began to be felt more broadly. During that period, demand for cybersecurity engineers surged 20 percent.

The need was also reflected in postings for other job titles, including cybersecurity analyst (+23 percent), cybersecurity specialist (+21 percent), cybersecurity consultant (+11 percent), cybersecurity architect (+11 percent), and cybersecurity manager (+8 percent).

6. Demand for web developers dropped 25 percent, February to March: Dice data found that job postings for front-end developers dipped 25 percent between February and March, while another role related to making websites look good – graphic designer – saw a 17 percent drop.

7. What other developer job titles dropped? Other job titles seeing fewer postings included business intelligence analyst (-13 percent), senior software developer (-11 percent), and software developer (-8 percent).

8. What other developer job titles gained? The damage wasn’t spread evenly across the software development profession. The demand for .NET developers rose 12 percent over the same period, and postings for systems engineers were up 11 percent.

When we talked to IT recruiters in April about IT roles that were fading in importance, four came up frequently: system administrators, project managers, quality assurance engineers, and back-end and front-end engineers (as opposed to full-stack developers.)

As for IT roles with plenty of upside for the future, recruiters cited product managers, security professionals, analytics pros, and data scientists and engineers.

[Want more detail and advice? Read the full article: 5 flourishing and 5 fading IT careers. ]

Articulate your value, IT job hunters

The way Zeile sees it, the trend is for companies to double down on essentials like the security, stability, and scalability of corporate infrastructure over creating a prettier website or more elaborate apps. In other words, they are addressing the technology needs they see as absolutely essential and putting other things on hold.

Even if technologists may be insulated from the worst of the economic trends, Block says they will need to be able to articulate the value they offer to potential employers. “Those can come up with a message that says ‘I can make you money or save you money’ will get hired. Those who can’t, won’t.”

[ What are the new trends in IT talent? Read the new Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report: IT Talent Strategy: New Tactics for a New Era. ]

David F. Carr is a writer, speaker, student of digital business, and the author of "Social Collaboration for Dummies." He previously served as an editor for InformationWeek, Baseline Magazine, and Internet World and has written for Forbes, CIO Magazine, and Defense Systems.