The case of the missing Sun refugees

There's something missing from the stack of resumes crossing recruiter desks around the country: a huge upsurge in resumes from people working at Sun. So what do they know that you and I don't?

According to the Techserve alliance U.S IT jobs fell by another 34,800 jobs in May to end about 5% below the record levels recorded in November 2008. That's about a fifth below the overall employment decline because the new taxes and regulations driving this are mainly aimed at the roots of the economy: primary production and manufacturing, where IT employment is both relatively limited and less variable than in secondary manufacturing and services.

We can expect, however, to see the IT percentage job loss number rise as the effects percolate through the economy and the next round of tax increases takes effect. There would have been, for example, only perhaps two or three IT staff among the 495 laid off in Tampa when Altadis was forced to close its cigar factory but many more will be affected as these people become net wealth consumers rather than producers.

It's in this context of deteriorating employment opportunities for IT workers that I noticed something odd, or at least unexpected, about the little sample I get from the flood of resumes zipping around between placement firms.

The initial leaks about IBM buying Sun sparked an obvious and immediate surge in the number of Sun people casting around for new job opportunities - some senior people actually moved, many juniors quietly sent out updated resumes, and lots of people talked about poaching talent or leveraging contacts to create new businesses.

Many, presumably most, of these people are still looking and talking, but the surprise has been that the reality of the Oracle deal seems to be associated with a reduction, rather than an increase, in the number of Sun employees looking to jump. Given the state of the economy you'd expect more people to value the jobs they have, but while I'm told that attrition is up a bit at Sun, the number of current Sun employee resumes in recruiter in-baskets seems to be dropping relative to what it was in April.

This breaks the normal pattern in which a significant change in corporate direction or control triggers an early jobs panic followed by a gradually building rush to the exits as people who can find new jobs, do.

So why isn't this dog barking? Obviously Sun HR values silence, and equally obviously people know new jobs are hard to get and so work to hold on to what they have - but I just don't think that's enough of an explanation, so how about this? Sun insiders know that the company makes the most efficient computers around, that rock is genuinely revolutionary, and that the Sun Ray looks better and better as Congress drives energy costs up and up - let me just quote Newt Gingrich on that, from yesterday's Washington Examiner:

Estimates are that the Waxman-Markey bill will raise electricity prices by an astounding 90 percent. It will raise gasoline prices by 74 percent. It will raise the average American family's energy bill by $1,500 each year.

And, far from creating jobs, experts predict that the global warming bill will destroy 1,105,000 jobs on average each year, with peak years seeing unemployment rise by over 2,479,000 jobs.

All in all, the bill is expected to reduce our gross domestic production (GDP) by $9.6 trillion.

That's bad for almost everybody - but terrific for network computing in general and Sun in particular because the worse it gets, the better Sun will look and maybe, just maybe, enough Sun employees know that to explain the refugee flood that isn't there.


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