Remote working under the COVID-19 pandemic has put an extra load on tech workers, but new data from US job-search platform Indeed now indicates tech jobs could be facing a slump that's worse than that seen in other sectors.
Indeed reports that tech job postings over the past few weeks are down about 36% compared with last year and that they're now trending lower than other sectors after initially showing resilience to the lockdowns that began in March.
New US tech job postings started to fall behind other sectors in mid-May and have slowed down even more since then, according to Indeed. Overall job postings, as expected are down too, but only by 21% year on year versus 36% for the tech sector.
While developer interest in the statistical programming language R and Python, a popular language for data scientists, has seen a boost in recent months, Indeed reports that new data-science job postings have fared worse than the overall tech sector.
New postings for data-scientist roles are down 43%, while IT management posting trends are down 45%. Both categories are markedly lower compared with IT operations and helpdesk jobs, which are down by 32% and 31%, respectively, compared with a year ago.
Tiobe, a company that ranks the popularity of programming languages based on search-engine results, speculated that more searches for topics about programming languages R and Python could be because universities and the healthcare industry are using them more to research vaccines for the coronavirus.
Meanwhile software development jobs are down by 35%, and within that group, artificial intelligence and machine learning job openings are 29% below the 2019 trend.
Until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, these job categories on the cutting-edge of technology were at the top end of the jobs market.
"Tech's failure to recover is probably due to the high cost of hiring and firing. While a restaurant may take on workers based on demand experienced over the past two weeks, sectors like tech have much longer planning horizons," explains Indeed.
"And with so much uncertainty, as highlighted in the Congressional Budget's Office latest economic outlook, bringing on new employees may be a low priority now."
That tech jobs are down isn't a surprise given the widespread effects the pandemic is having on economies across the world.
Job search site Glassdoor reported in April that new tech job openings fell by 20% compared with March 2019, but that decline was far less than the fall in job openings for other key sectors such as travel and tourism, which fell by over 70%.
Jobs in supermarkets only fell 8.8% year on year, while government jobs only fell by 11% over the period, Glassdoor found.
The Indeed researchers also looked at year-on-year job posting differences between eight key US tech hubs, including San Francisco, San Jose, Austin, Boston, Baltimore, Raleigh, Seattle and Washington.
Comparing the change in overall job postings with tech postings in each hub, the analysts found that Raleigh has been most impacted, with 45% fewer tech postings versus a 26% reduction for all postings. However, in San Francisco, the heart of Silicon Valley, tech postings are also down by 38%.
But as new tech job postings fall, Indeed says there's growing interest in working in technology because of recent decisions by the likes of Twitter, Google, and Facebook to allow remote working over the long term.
Google this week extended rights for employees to work remotely until at least July 2021, while Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has offered employees the option to work remotely on a permanent basis, albeit at possibly reduced rates. The company is weighing up a localized wages policy, which would reduce wages for employees who live in areas with lower living costs, an approach that most developers oppose.
In February, tech postings on Indeed got 68% of clicks of the average job, but by July 24 tech postings were getting 95% of the clicks.
"More clicks per posting means that, relative to employment opportunities, more people are interested in these jobs than in the pre-COVID era," Indeed said.
"This greater competition could spell a loss of bargaining power for tech workers. If more people want these jobs, tech companies may scale back benefits like unlimited personal time off."