Workers Fear Layoffs, Despite Big Spike in Job Openings

The United States finds itself in a weird economic moment. Fears of recession are widespread, and companies are unleashing layoffs, and yet unemployment remains notably low. In the tech industry, organizations are still desperate to secure the talent they need. How is this playing out on an individual level?

The Wall Street Journal has crunched some employment data and arrived at an interesting conclusion: Americans are either leaving their jobs or getting swept up in layoffs—only to find new positions pretty rapidly. Last month, some 37 percent of unemployed workers had been out of a job for five weeks, “roughly double the percentage experiencing long-term joblessness.” Even in turbulent subindustries such as fintech, workers with the right mix of skills and experience are quickly landing new offers.

The WSJ also analyzed U.S. Department of Labor data and found that the job-openings rate in the information industry (which encompasses much of tech) increased from 4.6 percent in February 2020 to 7.9 percent in June 2022: “Job-openings rates across industries are much higher than before the pandemic hit, suggesting companies still need workers even in sectors where company layoffs have been pronounced, such as technology, real estate, finance and insurance.”

Nonetheless, workers remain concerned about their prospects in the current environment. In a new Dice survey, some 56 percent of respondents said they were worried about the economy—well ahead of the 20 percent who said they weren’t worried, as well as the 23 percent who said they were only “a little” worried. The steady drumbeat of headlines about layoffs and hiring freezes probably doesn’t help calm anyone’s nerves.

For the moment, though, it’s important to emphasize that tech-industry employment remains strong. Tech industry employment has increased by 143,700 jobs in 2022, good for a year-over-year increase of 55 percent. “The tech jobs market has repeatedly outperformed in the face of real and perceived economic weakness,” Tim Herbert, chief research officer at CompTIA, wrote in a statement accompanying the latest hiring data. “The data confirms that for every layoff announcement there are other employers stepping in to take advantage of tech talent hiring opportunities.”