Economic Downturn Hits Seattle’s Tech Sector

Still, despite layoffs, Seattle’s weathering the economic storm better than other regions.

April 2009

In January, Microsoft announced plans to lay off 5,000 employees over 18 months, mostly in Redmond. Starbucks also is letting go 1,000 workers, along with Boeing (10,000). 

SeattleThat’s a lot of bad news. Yet still, Seattle has been weathering the economic storm better than other regions. In January, unemployment in the area was reported at 6.8 percent, compared to 8.4 percent nationally. Also, median home values there were among the last to fall, starting to slide in the fourth quarter of 2007 and dipping into double-digit declines a year later, according to The New York Times.

As has happened in other cities, the number of Dice job postings for Seattle dropped in March, to 1,189 this year from 2,522 in March 2008, a 53 percent decline. Meanwhile, the city’s IT recruiters are providing mixed reports.

Rob Meredith, president of the Seattle-based Averro recruiting firm, describes the IT job market as "so-so."

"It’s definitely not strong (but) it has picked up in the last three or four weeks," he says. "Companies are selectively growing. They still need expertise."

Dice Seattle PostingsMeredith’s firm sees a demand for hardware and software technologists specializing in the wireless space. Government and healthcare jobs continue to remain stable. Although the IT labor market stopped for a while, not "it feels like we slowly are starting to climb out of it," he says.

There’s a demand for Java and .NET expertise: "Companies are looking to hire the cream of the crop. They are waiting because they can," observes Meredith. "Certain companies definitely still are hiring."

However, another recruiter presents a gloomier picture of the city’s IT job market. Requesting anonymity, the recruiter calls the market weak. "I know people say we are recession proof, but I’m not buying it," he says. "My orders are way down. Seattle has been no more insulated than any other place."

Seattle companies are being extremely selective in their hiring. While’s they’re still looking for high-level IT talent such as project managers, they’re scrutinizing candidates more closely to make sure each person is the right fit. "It’s extremely difficult to fill the niche positions that are open," the recruiter reports. "They want people at a much lower rate. They are very much looking for a cultural fit because they want one person to do three jobs."

"It seems like companies are using the economy too much as a bargaining chip," he adds. "I think employers are making a big mistake, because when the economy recovers, these people are going to be gone. There is nothing wrong with getting people at a reasonable rate, but you cut the rate too much, the loyalty factor goes out the window."

One Response to “Economic Downturn Hits Seattle’s Tech Sector”

  1. I worked on and of in the Seattle market for some time, and I must say this article is dead on. Especially about the part about employers being extremely selective about project managers. I have worked in telecom and wireless for many years, and I have been building my skills and getting certifications in my down time, but after 8 months of unemployment I feel like nobody wants to talk to me. The job market here is extremely frustrating.