Tech Hubs’ Job Strength Continues Despite COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed considerable challenges. The national unemployment rate has spiked, especially in sectors such as retail and transportation. But how is the disease’s progress impacting hiring? 

In order to create the upcoming Dice Jobs Report for the first quarter, we turned to Burning Glass Technologies, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country. Our study of that dataset found something interesting: Postings for technologist jobs increased in many up-and-coming tech hubs between February and March 2020, while some of the largest cities—such as New York and Houston—only experienced relatively minor declines.  

In addition, these month-over-month increases bucked some year-over-year trends, especially in “hot” technology regions such as California and Texas. To provide greater context, we’ve also analyzed how the job-posting market has shifted in many cities between Q1 2019 and Q2 2020.   

What does this all mean? It’s worth keeping in mind that, when it comes to COVID-19, we’re in relatively early days; trends established during the first weeks of the crisis might not perpetuate over the next year, or even the next quarter. However, it seems that technologist hiring remains relatively healthy despite the crisis.  

And this certainly makes sense. Some of the country’s biggest tech firms, including Facebook and Google, are seeing unprecedented demand for their services, even as advertising revenue tumbles and their workers struggle to continue their complicated jobs from home). But even the smallest, non-tech companies still need technologists who can update their e-commerce portals, ensure their tech stacks are safe from a rising number of cyberattacks, and ensure that all employees can effectively work remotely. 

Tech Hubs Seeing Continued Strength 

The nation’s major tech hubs seem to have weathered the outset of COVID-19 fairly well. For example, Boston’s weekly hiring volume suggests the city had a very strong February, jobs-wise, and its March average was slightly higher than in January, even if the month-over-month decline between February and March was –6 percent. And although New York City has become the nation’s COVID-19 epicenter, the decline has only been -1 percent (so far).    

In fact, multiple cities showed an increase in job-posting volume between February and March. Specifically, Arlington, VA, San Diego, CA, and Raleigh, NC, all showed job-posting volumes increase by at least 20 percent. The causes for this growth differ; for example, Arlington hosts a high volume of federal government and defense contracting (which is typically resistant to downturns), as well as Amazon and its forthcoming “HQ2” headquarters. 

Raleigh, with its vibrant startup scene and plethora of research institutions, has likewise shown resiliency as COVID-19 has taken hold. San Diego saw a 23 percent growth in job postings between February and March, with businesses such as Qualcomm, Booz Allen Hamilton and General Atomics all hiring. 

Texas, meanwhile, continues to rise quickly as one of the nation’s primary tech hubs, with Austin, Houston, and Dallas seeing significant year-over-year growth (41 percent, 47 percent, and 36 percent, respectively). COVID-19 has done nothing to negatively impact that rise, at least in March: Between February and March, Austin also saw 13 percent growth, with businesses including IBM, Charles Schwab and Advanced Micro Devices all looking to hire in high volumes. Dallas saw three percent growth in that same month-over-month period, with Deloitte, Salesforce and KPMG topping the list of employers looking to hire.  

Here’s the wider Burning Glass breakdown of year-over-year growth (or decline) in job postings (Q1 2019 to Q2 2020).

Southern California Challenges Silicon Valley 

As you can see from the chart above, San Diego and Los Angeles both experienced notable year-over-year and February-to-March growth in job postings. This 12-month rise in the job fortunes of Southern California cities stands in stark contrast to what’s going on in Northern California, where the cities that make up Silicon Valley are experiencing notable declines. For instance, San Jose declined -4 percent year-over-year, along with Sunnyvale (-7 percent) and San Francisco (-2 percent).  

Does that mean Southern California is threatening to eclipse Silicon Valley? Not in the short term. San Francisco and the Bay Area remain home to many of the biggest names in tech, and, like so many other tech hubs, the rise of COVID-19 doesn’t seem to have resulted in much negative impact in the extreme short term: For example, San Francisco and San Jose saw job postings rise 13 percent and 12 percent between February and March, respectively.  

It’s also worth noting that many Silicon Valley companies, including Google, were among the first to shut down their headquarters and institute work-from-home policies for employees. As the COVID-19 crisis drags on, many of the products created by these firms—including social networks, email, video conferencing, and messaging software—will only become more vital to keeping commerce running.  

But the rise of Southern California, along with Texas, demonstrates that, when it comes to tech hubs, everything is always in a state of flux. With the right combination of companies and talent, growth can continue even in a crisis.  

Across the country, the need for remote work and social distancing is boosting demand for technologists who can provide everything from e-commerce portals to maintaining cloud architecture. The COVID-19 crisis still has some time to run, but for the technology industry, some of the early signals around job demand are surprisingly promising. Stay tuned for later this month when we roll out the Jobs Report, which will provide further context on how COVID-19 is impacting tech skills and occupations. 

For more COVID-19 content, check out the COVID-19 Jobs Resource Center.