In Boston, Layoffs Continue – But at a Slower Rate

New England’s unusually wet summer didn’t quench tech layoffs in the Boston area, though the number of workers slashed wasn’t as high as it was in Q4 2008 and Q1 2009.

Boston SkylineAmong those letting people go: Norwood-based Analog Devices, which plans to shut down its Cambridge plant. Meanwhile Sonus Networks, a Westford company that works with cable, wireless and telephone companies as they transition to Internet-based communications, announced a fourth round of layoffs: It plans to cut 93 people, according to xconomy.com.

Analogic, based in Peabody, reported plans to cut 85 jobs – or 86 percent of its workforce. Also, CombinatoRx, a Cambridge-based developer of treatments based on combinations of known drug compounds, announced it would lay off 20 workers after cutting 100 since October.

The overall numbers from the state’s Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development show the number of professional, scientific and technical jobs in the bay State fell from about 258, 200 in June 2008 to 249,700 this June, a 3.29 percent decline, says xconomy.com. However, the Web site also notes Massachusetts-based life sciences and tech firms announced a total of 718 job cuts, a decline from the 971 layoffs recorded in April and May.

Between July 2008 and July 2009, the number of jobs posted for Boston on Dice fell by more than 53 percent, from 4,024 last year to 1,889 this year.

Boston Job PostingsWhile recruiters aren’t yet ready to signal even the beginnings of a turnaround, they are seeing some aspects of an improved IT job market. Jack Fellers, vice president of Robert Half International’s New England area, says, “relative to the last six months, the sun is starting to come out a little. The layoffs have slowed down. I wouldn’t say it has stopped, but we have seen it slow down.”

Christa Baker, area manager at Manpower Professional, concurs: “It’s still on the flat slide, but we are seeing signs of improvement.”

Fellers says the freeze on the labor market started to thaw in early- to mid-May. Now he’s seeing an uptick in demand for help desk and desktop support, and general network administrators. Plus, as a byproduct of the recession, he sees a demand for IT workers who can support a mobile workforce, as more companies push employees to work from home as a cost-saving measure. “The need is a reaction to the economy,” says Fellers. “We saw a demand for tech support for a mobile workforce go up in Q1 and into Q2. Data security is another area (in which demand has risen). The need for network security administrator has gone up as well.”

As for verticals, Fellers says the utilities, healthcare and education sectors are doing relatively well.

Matt Conley, branch manager at Sapphire Technologies’ Boston office says that after almost nine straight months of declining orders, his firm has experenced a nearly 40 percent increase in job orders in July. “This percentage has remained consistent through the first three weeks in August,” he says. “I am very optimistic that the worst is behind us, but it could also be a hiccup of activity. It is going to take a few months at this volume of requests to officially says things have turned the corner.”

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2 Responses to “In Boston, Layoffs Continue – But at a Slower Rate”

August 27, 2009 at 11:53 am, Walter Toner said:

Anecdotally, the financial services IT consulting market is still moribound in New England. I’ve been out for 8 months and am getting submitted for jobs weekly but have received zero interview ops to this point. The impression that I have is that when the occasional req is offered, hiring managers are inundated with resumes, sometimes hundreds. My associates are having the same experience.And of course, the rates offered are back to the 2003 baseline. Not that it matters

Speciality coding skills may be in some demand, they always are for the ad hoc situation. But BA’s are up against horrible numbers.

Further, 3 of the 6 recruiters I started this search with in January have now left the business. .

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September 05, 2009 at 2:46 am, AMW said:

Things were very slow from November 2008 until July 2009. I was getting lots of resume submittals and a handful of interviews, but not much would happen on any of them. Companies seemed to have staffing needs, but weren’t committing to budgets to hire people or were dragging the process out so they could wait on better economic news. It seems, though, that things picked up substantially after July 1, at least in the contract software development side of things. I’ve been working as a contractor for 17 years and have noticed over the years that contract/temp work tends to start improving before permanent hiring. I ended up with 3 contract work offers by the start of August and took one out of state (only because it’s for a great company that pays very well and will look good on my resume). Also, though rates did slump a bit in the past year, I’m making more right now than I have in years, so I think things will keep improving. It would be nice to have the hourly rates we saw back in 1999, but that’s probably wishful thinking 🙂

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