Low Tech Unemployment Presents Recruiting Challenges

The tech industry’s unemployment rate hit 1.9 percent in April, down from 3 percent a year ago, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

That’s great for highly skilled tech workers: a low unemployment rate puts more pressure on tech companies searching for qualified talent, which can lead to higher salaries (and better benefits) for those tech pros with the right mix of abilities and experience. And that’s despite an increase of nearly 200,000 tech jobs in 2017, according to CompTIA, which brings the total number of tech workers in the United States to 11.5 million; the hunger for talent runs very deep.

This hunger creates more issues for recruiters, who depend on a pool of available talent in order to fulfill hiring requisitions. In particularly “hot” fields such as artificial intelligence (A.I.) and machine learning, the most desirable tech pros are keenly aware of their worth (as well as their rarity) and will hold out for extraordinary compensation; companies should be aware that huge paydays and bonuses aren’t out of the question in some instances.

But anyone who watches BLS data on a regular basis knows that certain technology segments can undergo wild (and sometimes seasonal) fluctuations, especially software developers, computer support specialists, and information security analysts. That “churn” means that, even in a tight labor market, new candidates can and will hit the market on a quarterly basis.

In order to meet their needs, many companies are also turning to contractors and “gig economy” workers. While this method is great for filling short-term needs, it also has some drawbacks; when gig professionals leave, they take their accumulated knowledge with them, leaving a vacuum in a company’s culture and workflow. If these “gigsters” build a project and then disappear, there’s nobody to fix problems or provide reliable upgrades when necessary. For those reasons, many recruiters may encourage companies to lean toward full-time hires instead of temporary workers, despite the hiring difficulties that stem from ultra-low unemployment.

For recruiters pressed to find the talent that companies need, just throwing more money at certain candidates won’t do the trick—especially if those candidates are actively recruited by tech giants with infinitely deep pockets. Indeed, tech pros care about many things in addition to money, including a great work-life balance and the opportunity to work on interesting projects; explaining the other benefits of working for a particular company can often lead to success, even in an extremely competitive market.

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