US IT job recovery is in full swing, but employee retention can be tenuous

Hiring of IT professionals is at record pace with 197,000 more IT jobs so far this year than at the same time last year, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

There has been growth in the IT job market each of the past eight months, according to IT employment consultancy Janco Associates. 

“Information-Technology leaders say they are boosting compensation packages and flexible work options to widen the pool of prospective job candidates, as demand surges for tech talent,” M. Victor Janulaitis, Janco’s CEO, stated on the company’s website

To entice employees and retain existing tech staff, CIOs are offering flexible work options, such as a combination of in-office and remote work. The median salary for IT professionals is expected to grow to between $96,000 and $97,000, up from just over $94,600 in January and $95,600 in June, Janulaitis wrote.

“Most CIOs have not recruited at this rate before. Janco attributes the hiring push of some CIOs to meet their company’s goals to recruit talent related to security, compliance and cloud computing, Those IT jobs are difficult ones to fill,” he said.

In 2019, 90,200 new IT jobs were created. As a result of the global pandemic. By contrast, 33,200 were lost in 2020. In 2021, almost 150,000 jobs were added to the IT job market.

All job markets included, nearly 100 million working-age people were excluded from the labor force in November 2021, according to Janco Associates, which is based on BLS data. Most, of course, are still in school, retired ill or disabled and unable to work, according to the BLS data. But, those excluded from the labor force also include 471,000 “discouraged workers,” which represents an increase from 460,000 last month. Among the reasons cited for not re-joining the workforce were the continued impact of vaccine mandates, travel restrictions, and new virus variants.

Roughly 34.4 million people have quit their jobs this year as they reevaluate their work lives, according to job-search company Joblist. A survey of 26,000 employees recently published by Joblist showed nearly three-quarters of respondents said they were actively thinking about quitting. And, roughly 34.4 million people have quit their jobs this year during 2021 as they reevaluate their work lives.

About 46% of the remaining workforce is considering leaving work because they’re not being allowed to work remotely, according to the Work Trend Index study by Microsoft Corp.  

“There are 94.438 million who just do not want work at all. That is a increase of almost 612,000 individuals from the same month last year,” according to Janco Associates’s website.

Baby boomers retiring is another factor in the continued fall in the Labor Participation rate.

Overall, though, the IT job market in the U.S. has added an average of about 13,000 positions during each month of 2021, up from a typical monthly average of between 5,000 and 8,000 jobs.

Job growth in the US IT industry had slowed and took a dip in October, adding just 4,800 positions, according to the BLS data that were included in the figures from Janco Associates. That was down from 8,900 positions added in the revised September figures.

In October, the overall growth in IT positions was even as the highly infectious delta variant of COVID-19 continued to hinder overall job growth, mainly due to slowdowns in the restaurant, entertainment, and service sectors.

The IT industry’s bigger challenge is finding qualified candidates for those IT jobs, Janulaitis said in a statement at the time. And the challenge won’t end soon, he said:

From data that we have reviewed, shutdowns resulted in fewer computer science candidates graduating from universities and trade schools. Those in the pipeline for those degrees were reduced as well. One of the drivers of that trend was that the closing of borders limited the number of foreign nationals who could qualify for that training and education.

Many of the new positions that CIOs are trying to fill are in new technologies. There is a shortfall of individuals who have the training and skills necessary. There are open positions that cannot be filled. … At the same, time attrition rates are on the rise in many IT organizations.

US IT job growth was stronger earlier in the year, before the delta variant and the talent shortage: August saw a surge of 25,400 new jobs on the heels of about 18,500 in June and 9,900 in July (all are revised figures), reflecting continuing business recovery from the pandemic. In fact, IT job growth has occurred for 15 consecutive months, though it was uneven through May. I has averaged 13,000 new jobs each month so far in 2021.

The IT job situation in the US continues to look very much like the pre-pandemic state: more positions than candidates. In fact, businesses would have filled more IT positions in September had they found enough qualified candidates, Janulaitis said. Finding web developers and cybersecurity and compliance pros remains the toughest task for CIOs, he said — and is causing HR to focus more on IT staff retention.

That talent shortage has put even greater pressure on businesses to increase salaries, Janulaitis said — and US IT salaries had already been trending up in 2021.

Janco still expects 2021 to have greater IT job growth — there were 189,000 new positions in 2021 as of Oct. 31, with two more months of hiring left in the year — than in any previous year, more than making up for jobs lost due to the pandemic. The last high was 2015, when 112,500 new positions were created. In 2018, 104,600 new IT positions were added; in 2019, the increase was 90,200; and in 2020, the industry lost 33,200 positions.

There are now 3.72 million IT pro jobs in the US, Janco estimates.

The monthly tech jobs report released by the CompTIA industry association also showed slower hiring growth in October. CompTIA calculated that there were 8,300 new US tech-sector jobs last month, down from September’s 18,700, August’s 26,800, July’s 10,700, and June’s 10,500 jobs. The US tech sector’s job numbers remain above their March 2020 peak of 4.76 million positions, nudging just past 4.81 million in October 2021, according to CompTIA data.

CompTIA calculates both technical and nontechnical positions at tech vendors, with roughly 44% being technical and 56% being nontechnical; Janco looks at IT positions, including software developers, in all industries.

CompTIA calculated the estimated unemployment rate for the tech sector at 2.1% in October, down from 2.2% in September but up from 1.5% in August and July. The current tech unemployment rate is within range of its 2018-19 lows, where it ranged from 1.2% to 2.4%. The national unemployment rate in October was 4.6%, down from 4.8% in September, according to the BLS.