Still hiring: Big Tech layoffs give other sectors an opening

For the thousands of workers who’d never experienced upheaval in the tech sector, the recent mass layoffs at companies like Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Meta came as a shock.

Now they are being courted by long-established employers whose names aren’t typically synonymous with tech work, including hotel chains, retailers, investment firms, railroad companies and even the Internal Revenue Service.

All of those sectors have signaled on recruiting platforms that they are still hiring software engineers, data scientists and cybersecurity specialists despite the layoffs in Big Tech. It’s a chance for them to level the playing field against tech giants that have long had their pick of the top talent with lucrative compensation, alluring perks and sheer name recognition.

No employer is making a more aggressive push than the country’s largest: the federal government, which is aiming to hire 22,000 tech workers in fiscal year 2023. Federal agencies have participated in a series of “Tech to Gov” job forums targeted in part at laid off workers, hoping to ease their own chronic labor shortages that have hindered efforts to strengthen cybersecurity defenses and modernize the way they deliver benefits and collect taxes.

“It’s a real opportunity for the federal government,” said Rob Shriver deputy director of the U.S. office of Personnel Management. “We have just about any tech job that anybody could possibly be interested in the federal government.”

Federal, state and local government tech job postings soared 48% in the first three months of 2023 compared to the same period last year, according to an analysis by tech trade group CompTIA of data from Lightcast, a labor analytics firm. It was a sharp contrast to the 33% decrease in tech job openings during that period in the tech industry, and a 31.5% slowdown in such postings across the economy, according to CompTIA’s figures.

Tech hiring reached a historic high of more than 4 million in 2022, although hiring began to fall off in the second half of the year, according to CompTIA. This year, there have been about 1.26 million tech postings between January and May, a level more on par with the pre-pandemic years, said Tim Herbert, chief research officer at CompTIA.

To be sure, the competition for tech talent remains tight, and many companies, including tech companies, are still hiring — just more slowly. The unemployment rate for tech workers is just 2%. But some who lost their jobs in Big Tech swiftly landed jobs at non-tech firms.

After Hector Garcia, 53, was laid off by Meta’s Facebook in November, it didn’t take long for him to be snapped up by Abbott, the Chicago-based global health company, which expects to hire hundreds of software engineers, data architects and cybersecurity analysts over the next years.

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