Tech hiring: Best house in a bad neighborhood?

Credit: flickr/hello-julie

Employers taking longer to fill positions, while tech pros are reluctant to move

Relative to the rest of the U.S. workforce, tech professionals have weathered the deep recession and stumbling recovery reasonably well. While overall U.S. unemployment is at 8.2%, the jobless rate for tech professionals in the first quarter of 2012 was 4.4%, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's down from 4.7% in the first quarter of last year. But that's also up from 4.1% in the fourth quarter of 2011 (as well as 3.6% in Q2 2011), even though the overall unemployment rate dropped to 8.3% in the first quarter from 8.7% in Q4. "The labor market for tech professionals is good, though it’s not great," says Tom Silver, senior vice president, North America, for technology career website Dice. "Tech hiring is the best house in a bad neighborhood." Bottom line: The tepid economic recovery could grind to a halt at any time. And tech professionals are as aware of this as anybody, which likely explains their historically greater reluctance to change jobs. According to the BLS, fewer professional and business services workers on average are voluntarily leaving their jobs, with 367,000 offering resignations in the first quarter, about 11% below the 10-year monthly average of 413,000. Further, only 37% of the HR managers, tech recruiters and consulting and staffing companies responding to Dice's May survey reported an increase in voluntary employee departures. (Though the survey wasn't worded to determine how many respondents reported fewer voluntary departures.) "Typically in a recovery you see a lot of job change," says Silver. "We’re not seeing that right now." The low level of confidence among tech workers may be making it harder for employers to fill vacant or new positions. Asked if it was taking them longer to fill open positions than it did a year ago, 45% of respondents said it was, with only 24% reporting taking less time to hire candidates. And nearly half of the respondents (48%) who said it was taking longer to fill tech jobs cited an "inability to find qualified professionals." “There is just not enough confidence for professionals to leave what they know behind and take a chance with their careers,” Silver says. It helps if a currently employed tech pro is offered enough incentive to switch jobs, and that may be part of the problem. According to Dice, "When asked what new inducements hiring managers were offering that weren’t needed last year, ‘nothing’ was the most frequently cited answer."

Chris Nerney writes ITworld's Tech Business Today blog. Follow Chris on Twitter at @ChrisNerney. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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