Fewer people seek AI jobs: is the market cooling off, or too hot to handle?

Analysis of Indeed job data shows slump in AI searches, suggesting the pool of available candidates ran dry.

Over the past 12 months, AI job-posting growth has slowed, while interest in AI jobs has actually dipped.  

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Photo: Joe McKendrick

However, that doesn't mean AI is starting to fade away like some fevered fad. If anything, it may suggest that we've reached the point in which the available applicant pool has dried up. That's the word from the folks at Indeed, who recently published an analysis of AI-related job openings.  

So, is that what's going on?  Or is it the economy, or is interest in AI cooling, or is the market saturated, or is it, as Indeed suggests, depletion of the AI skills pool because everyone who is employable is happily employed?

Indeed poured through its list of AI job postings, and noted that these postings increased by 29% over the past year, between May 2018 and May 2019 -- a fairly torrid growth rate for a job category. However, that pales compared to previous years increases -- AI job openings rose 58% the previous year, and 136% the year before that.
  
The other side of the equation is interest from job seekers, which has dropped. Searches for AI jobs on Indeed have actually decreased for the first time in three years. From May 2018 to 2019, searches for AI-related jobs on Indeed declined by 15%. Last year at this time, searches increased 32%, and were up 49% two years ago. 

"This year's drop suggests there could be more open jobs than qualified workers to fill them," the report's authors state. "AI job searches don't always keep pace with the number of postings. For example, data scientists are in high demand, and our research shows job postings jumped 31% from 2017 to 2018. During the same period, however, job searches only increased about 14%."

As noted above, AI job openings are still rising. This year, machine learning engineer was the position most in demand, followed by deep learning engineer and senior data scientist. Indeed ranked these positions based on the number of times "AI" or "machine learning" were mentioned in their descriptions. So these are the leading jobs seen in the AI/ML category this year:

  1. Machine learning engineer  
  2. Deep learning engineer    
  3. Senior data scientist
  4. Computer vision engineer
  5. Data scientist
  6. Algorithm developer
  7. Junior data scientist
  8. Developer consultant
  9. Director of data science
  10. Lead data scientist

So, machine learning engineers are the hottest commodity. The study's authors provide a job description as well: "Machine learning engineers develop devices and software that use predictive technology, such as Apple's Siri or weather-forecasting apps. They ensure machine learning algorithms have the data that needs to be processed, and analyze huge amounts of real-time data to make machine learning models more accurate." 

There are a number if new titles on this years list. Deep learning engineer, for example, came from nowhere to occupy second place. Indeed defines the position this way: "Deep learning engineers develop programming systems that mimic brain functions, among other tasks. These engineers are key players in three rapidly growing fields: autonomous driving, facial recognition and robotics. 

Other new jobs that made it on this year's top- 10 list include: senior data scientist, junior data scientist, developer consultant, director of data science, and lead data scientist.

Positions that fell off the list since last year include: director of analytics; statistician; principal scientist; computer scientist; research engineer; and data engineer.

The Indeed authors such these changes "could reflect the growing demand for data scientists at all types of companies; many employers now need a whole data science team, with staff from junior to director levels. By comparison, the 2018 list contained data science jobs that were more generic, such as data scientist, principal scientist and computer scientist. Hiring for a range of experience levels appeals to a wider range of talent, which can help organizations better compete in the tight labor market."