Despite the continued strong demand for IT professionals across the country, recent news of major layoffs from tech giants including Twitter, Facebook parent Meta, Salesforce, and ride-hailing company Lyft have rekindled concerns of a slowing IT job market.
On Monday, Amazon added to the slew of layoff announcements with its plan to axe approximately 10,000 employees starting this week.
However, demand for qualified IT professionals remains strong, and that's unlikely to change anytime soon, according to Megan Slabinski, district director for Robert Half Technology for Canada, the Pacific Northwest, and Northern California.
From her perspective, these layoffs are isolated cases predominantly at the tech giants, but there are still "tons" of opportunities for tech hiring within small to medium-size businesses (SMBs).
"The need for technology professionals is not isolated to tech companies," she explained. "The demand supersedes any industry in and of itself. It's a broad-based need for security, cloud computing, data analytics, and business intelligence for digital transformation."
Slabinski pointed out that those needs are what's driving job openings for technology professionals across all industries.
"While there are some very notable companies in the technology space talking about layoffs or even hiring freezes, there are so many more positions and openings in other sectors of the employment market," she said. "Tech employees still have tons of choice and opportunity."
Mixed Signals but Overall Strong Outlook for IT Job Market
Tim Herbert, chief research officer at CompTIA, admits it is undoubtedly a strange period of conflicting information.
"Despite the headlines of hiring freezes and layoffs, in the aggregate tech industry employment and tech occupation employment across the economy are holding up quite well, as recently reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics," he said.
That report shows that tech industry employment now stands at 23 consecutive months of positive gains through October.
"This gets to the point about the diversity of company types in the tech space whereby weakness in some areas can be offset by strength in others," Herbert explained.
Although a few notable companies that focus on the corporate or enterprise market have announced layoffs, for the most part this segment of the market has held up reasonably well.
Enterprise customers that rely on cloud infrastructure, application development, data services, and cybersecurity are typically not going to cut off that spending — and accompanying staff — because the technology underpins so much of their business operations, Herbert said.
"There was a rebound in employer job postings for tech positions in October, reversing a five-month slide," Herbert noted. "This could be viewed as a segment of companies stepping back into the labor market to hire — possibly in anticipation of a return to growth heading into 2023 or possibly to take advantage of additional tech workers seeking employment."
Many of the mainstays were also actively hiring this past month, among them Amazon, Apple, Intel, Verizon, Salesforce, Google, VMware, and Cisco, he said.
"One other factor to keep in mind," Herbert said, "because of the demand for tech talent across many industry sectors outside of tech, a displaced software engineer, for example, could end up transitioning into a job in the financial, healthcare, or other sector."
Demand for Senior IT Pros Still Strong — and Growing
Another factor contributing to the confusion is the common practice in the tech space for companies to be simultaneously hiring and shedding workers, according to Herbert.
"Companies routinely shift workers or hire workers in new growth areas, while cutting back on legacy or slow growth areas of the business," he said. "Some of the companies above have announced layoffs or hiring freezes recently, but they also continue to hire in strategically important areas."
John Bambenek, principal threat hunter at Netenrich, a security and operations analytics SaaS company, points out the tech industry, like any other industry, isn't immune to economic headwinds.
"Even in cybersecurity, we have seen a number of recent layoffs," he noted. "That being said, the time on the bench is usually much less for tech workers looking for work."
From Bambenek's perspective, the biggest trend that could negatively affect IT pros is outsourcing.
"But even then, not enough jobs are being outsourced to outstrip the increase in demand here in the U.S.," he said.
Absent a significant economic downturn, the IT job market is only getting better, according to Bambenek.
"The job market thrived during the pandemic when others significantly declined, and if the IT job market could survive the COVID shutdown, it will remain robust," he said.
Matthew Warner, CTO and co-founder at Blumira, a provider of automated threat detection and response technology, agrees that technology is growing in need and application across all industries.
"Computer literacy and the ability to solve complex problems is needed more than ever as data grows within organizations," he said.
Entry level is still the minority in open positions, he said, as IT candidates who have multiple years of experience are needed more than ever to execute on needs without additional or unnecessary oversight to maintain efficient organizations.
"While there may be some bumps in the road, IT and technical jobs will only continue to grow," Warner predicted. "Similar to now, there will not be enough people to fill these open roles, and there will always be openings for smart IT people."
New Opportunities for IT Pros — and Small Businesses
Remote hiring and the appetite for remote workers remain quite high, especially in the technology sector, which means people are not geographically tied to where they can look for job opportunities, according to Slabinski.
"They can continue to look at remote opportunities across the United States," she said. "But the demand for technology employees is not isolated to geography either."
The headline-grabbing layoffs also perhaps means smaller organizations on the hunt for IT talent might get a second look from a wider pool of applicants.
"You still have to be competitive as an employer and offer competitive pay, competitive benefits and perks, but maybe now you get a fair shake at the same talent, and employers need to make sure that they are selling their opportunity," Slabinski said.
By that Slabinski means employers should be selling the career path, the access to technology, and all the other upsides that come with working at an SMB.
"Somebody could have a lot more ownership of a product or a team or an outcome," she explained. "For one person on a team of four versus one person on a team of 400, that can be really appealing."
That means employers must be able to sell who they are and what they're offering in a way that gets in front of these candidates and captures their attention.
"But now at least there's an opportunity," Slabinski added.
Looking Ahead to 2023: Plentiful Jobs and 'Returnships'
Over the past year, technology job postings have been plentiful and tech unemployment has been incredibly low, and there is no reason to expect a huge change to the situation in 2023, according to Herbert.
Indeed, CompTIA's "IT Industry Outlook 2023" forecast found the turmoil of recent years is not dampening spirits for IT professionals: Nearly 80% are optimistic about their job role, including 38% who feel very optimistic.
"The recent tech layoff announcements could be viewed as a cautionary predictor for firms caught in a similar position of experiencing disconnects between their business fundamentals and the market, but we must also recognize that could be offset by the segment of the tech market holding up," Herbert added.
Slabinski said her best advice to job seekers is to focus on their skills and look at opportunities that keep them moving forward and progressing from a skills standpoint.
"This up and down hiring trend or layoffs is always cyclical in any circumstance," she said. "You want to make sure you stay gainfully employed and continue to build your skill set, and you want to make sure that you emphasize the range of knowledge."
SMBs are often looking for somebody who has a broader base of skills and can do more for their organization than just one isolated job function or technology.
"Emphasize your area of specialty, but also make it clear to a potential employer what else you bring to the table and your range of knowledge," Slabinski advised. "If you were living in one of these markets that are concentrated with the tech giants, perhaps you look outside of your market for competitive opportunities."
There are also indicators that some impacted by the layoffs are looking to rejoin former employers, she said.
"We're starting to see 'returnships' coming back into play as well," she said.
About the authorNathan Eddy is a freelance writer for ITPro Today. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin.