Job openings among 40 industries down 1.5% during coronavirus pandemic

In the wake of COVID-19, job openings in tech are up and down, with the internet and tech jobs category up a whopping 41%, Glassdoor found.

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As the coronavirus has many "sheltering in place" and applying the new-but-everywhere phrase "social distancing," it was inevitable that the state of US tech jobs would be impacted. Positions in tech (in general) are among the 40 industries down 1.5% in job openings profiled in a special edition of Glassdoor's monthly job market report, released Tuesday.

The report found that the tech industry demonstrated both down and upswings.  It also noted that increased job openings in early 2020 "gives the labor market some buffer against an outbreak-induced slowdown. Unfortunately, a sustained slowdown in job openings would mark a long-term risk to the labor market and the broader economy." 

"It might seem unusual that job openings are only declining 1.5% week-over-week amid extreme volatility in the stock market, rapidly shifting behavior from consumers and increasingly aggressive actions by government entities," Glassdoor said. "But for context, a 1.5% week-over-week decline now is equivalent to 89,000 fewer job openings, a substantial dip for just one week. According to Glassdoor data, a decline that large is already in the slowest 10% of weeks by job openings growth since the beginning of 2016."

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Zach Capers, senior content analyst at Capterra, a company that helps people find software, said, "China recently announced five-million job losses from January and February alone. In the US, many companies freeze hiring for new positions, and others cut jobs to stay afloat. We're looking at a downturn in the job market that could rival the 8.7 million jobs lost in the Great Recession."

Capers added: "We are clearly in unprecedented territory and the outlook is changing by the hour. However, as near-term volatility gives way to more clarity about what we're facing in the medium- and long-term, financial markets will stabilize and the job market should eventually rebound."

"The main effect of COVID-19 that we're seeing on jobs is volatility," said Jay Bregman, founder and CEO of Thimble, an on-demand insurance partner for small businesses and independent workers, who "are facing incredible uncertainty right now as jobs are being canceled or postponed due to the health crisis." 

Bregman added that customers' "expectations range anywhere from two to six months before things return to normal, and some predict an influx in openings once pent-up demand is accessible again. It's difficult to say what's going to happen—but we know SMBs are resilient and expect a bounce-back once things normalize." 

When the economy is healthy, weekly declines in job openings are normally followed by a snapback the following week, but as the pandemic further pushes people into isolation this seems unlikely. "A similarly sized drop," the report stated, "over the next four weeks would compound into 356,000 fewer" job openings for Americans, the worst decline in four years. 

Of all industries examined month-to-month, architecture and civil engineering was the hardest hit, -33%. 

In the tech arena, information technology was down -20.5%.

Job openings' growth and decline of tech-related industries, month-to-month:

  • Biotech and pharmaceuticals -3.3%
  • Computer software and hardware +8.3%
  • Consumer Electronics +2.4%
  • Information technology -27.3%
  • Internet and tech +41.1%
  • Telecommunications -6.5%

Stan Lowe, global chief information security officer at the cloud security company Zscaler, said he hasn't seen a slowdown in job postings, but anticipates a slowdown in hiring, "unless there are absolutely critical roles." 

Lowe believes "industries most impacted by the pandemic will be looking to cut costs and sometimes that means staff cuts or furloughs." He foresees an "increase in the pool of candidates for other industries and may drive some shifts between verticals to more stable areas of the economy, like banking, healthcare and technology."

Other experts' have differing predictions. "Coronavirus outbreak has forced HR teams to enforce strict work from home and sick time policies, but it's also spurred recruiters and hiring teams into action," said Peter Baskin, chief product officer, Modern Hire.

"Google announced it's moving all interviews to Hangouts for the foreseeable future, while Facebook is canceling most in-person interviews, and Amazon put on-site job interviews on hold indefinitely." Baskin added that while the video-centric tools "are convenient, they're not built for hiring and delivering a personal experience for the candidates, which could impact the quality of the selection process, and eventually, the quality of the candidates you're hiring."

But Joey Owens-Barham, director of talent and culture at FormAssembly, a web form platform, cited the challenges of hiring and recruiting during a pandemic, but added, "If a company is willing to implement video interviewing in lieu of an onsite interview, then the process can continue, and people can maintain social distancing without any compromise."

In a separate report on Monday, Glassdoor cited quantitative evidence of a very high increase in public health hiring. 

"Our continued hiring has certainly not slowed down and the openings and opportunities are very much still available in this challenging time," said Tony Boyle, president and CEO of HRdownloads Inc. "Now more than ever, remote workers are needed in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, and I do not see this slowing down. Demand for remote labor force will likely grow exponentially if the situation persists."

Glassdoor's special report concludes that its data is suggesting that the labor market is slowing but not tumbling. "However, if declines in job openings continue as the outbreak worsens, a more dramatic slowdown in the labor market is possible."

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By N.F. Mendoza

N.F. Mendoza is a writer at TechRepublic and based in Los Angeles. She has a BA in Broadcast Journalism and Cinema Critical Studies and a Master's of Professional Writing, both from USC. Nadine has more than 20 years experience as a journalist coveri...