Talk to anybody in tech and you'll hear analogies to the dot-com boom. A lot has changed since then, but today's job market is nearly as hot.
One way to gauge the growth is to look at job listings on Dice, one of the oldest and likely the largest techie job board in the country. At the beginning of 2010, there were 48,571 listing for tech jobs, including contract and part-time positions. That total has climbed steadily every month. At the beginning of October 2011, Dice listed 83,567 openings, an increase of 72 percent over January 2010, and 18 percent higher than October 2010.
Dice is admittedly an imperfect barometer of the job market. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were just under 3.3 million people working in IT-related technology jobs in the United States as of May 2010. But because the bureau has been hurt by budget cuts, it will not publish more current statistics until well into 2012.
Amar Mann, the chief regional economist in the bureau's San Francisco office, estimates that the tech job market has grown about 10 percent in the last year, slower than the Dice estimate, but given that overall unemployment in the United States has been stuck in the 9 percent range for some time, it's a very bright spot in the national economy, he adds.
In any case, employers are having to work harder to find the new hires they need this year. "It is an incredibly competitive job market. Finding the right people is hard," says Woodson Martin, Salesforce.com's senior vice president for employee success. Martin has a lot of jobs to fill. At the end of October, the company's career site listed 718 openings, including 36 under "information technology"; 30 in "technical operations," including the likes of Linux network system administrators; and 127 under "research and development," with jobs for software engineers in security and user interface development.
Akamai, which provides a platform for the delivery of Web content and applications, has about 200 job openings at the moment, about half in engineering, says Harold Prokop, senior vice president of the company's Intelligent Platform Group. Many smaller companies are hiring aggressively as well.
"Software engineers are the hottest," says Bill Reichert, managing director of Garage Technologies, a venture capital firm. "The higher the software level, the harder it is to fill those jobs."
Not surprisingly, salaries are inflating, sometimes significantly, says Reichert. How much they're increasing is hard to quantify; anecdotal evidence indicates that although there's good money to be made, companies are not repeating the mistake (from the employer's point of view) of paying unsustainably high wages. It's worth noting that a too-rapid, and too-expensive, ramp-up of the workforce helped kill many of the Silicon Valley startups founded in the year 2000, the height of the dot-com frenzy, according to a recent report by Mann and colleagues at the BLS. Tech companies have seemingly learned that lesson.
The tech jobs boom favors developers, cloud experts, and business strategists
Are we back to better times in the tech job market? Certainly. But that's not to say everyone who wants to work in tech is employed. In June, for example, 9.9 percent of the full-time workforce in Sunnyvale, San Jose, and Santa Clara, the California cities regarded as the Silicon Valley tech heartland, found themselves unemployed. It's unclear how much of the out-of-work population are techies, but given the heavy concentration of IT-related jobs in those communities, it's likely that the hiring boom has yet to make up for the massive job losses in tech that followed the financial crisis of 2008.