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Dr. Norm Matloff On The Current Tech Job Market
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July 04, 2011, 12:26 AM
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Dr. Norm Matloff writes to his newsletter mailing list (see archive):

As I`ve mentioned before, only about half of the subscribers to this e-newsletter are tech workers. The rest are journalists, academics, government researchers and so on. But a few days ago I sent out a short survey to the techie subscribers, asking their take on the current job market.

The results were interesting. A few of those who replied are doing quite well, better than ever. Most, however, are making less than they did in 1998 in real terms, with little or no sense of job security. Those who had worked as independent consultants seem to be in especially poor circumstances; many have left for more stable but much less lucrative permanent jobs, but most of those who have remained consultants report that rates are way down and time between contracts much longer than before.

There are a number of subscribers who gave up and left the field after seeing that it just was not economically viable for them. They have turned to careers in real estate, nursing, (non-engineering) civil service and the like.

By the way, those with PhDs tend to be especially bitter (and especially underemployed), an irony in view of the industry lobbyists` frequent statement that industry needs H-1Bs because not enough Americans pursue doctoral study.

I will add my perspective as a computer science professor who pays close attention to employment for new grads. At least in northern California, the market for new grads seems to have improved markedly just in the last few months, at least anecdotally. I`ve seen my students, even one that is quite weak, getting offers for pretty good jobs.

On the other hand, nationwide salaries for new computer science grads are only up 3% since this time last year, according to NACE. (Again anecdotally, the same appears true for my students.) And according to Dice.com, there are still 21 applicants for every job opening. See DiceTV: CS Graduates Will Jump Into a Strong Market By Cat Miller, May 4, 2011

So, the "boom" for new grads is a mini-boom, at best, and things are not rosy for the older workers (remember, this means over 35).

The San Jose Mercury News ran a piece last week reporting on a hiring frenzy in Silicon Valley. (See for example here.) It was filled with the usual examples of certain individuals who are being aggressively courted by employers. Yet the article says salaries in Silicon Valley are up only 3% since 2009. That`s just not compatible with the "labor shortage" image projected by the article.

Interestingly however, it did quote LinkedIn as saying that it was targeting new grads, citing the fact that older workers are "expensive." That of course has been the issue with H-1B from the beginning, as I`ve often pointed out; the H-1B program, most of whose participants are young, gives employers the ability to avoid hiring the older workers. LinkedIn claims that the older workers don`t really exist in large numbers anyway, but for reasons I`ve given in detail before, this statement is disingenuous.