The recent wave of mass layoffs at tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Meta has taken many workers by surprise, especially those who had never witnessed such upheaval in the industry before.
Now they’re courted by long-established employers whose names aren’t typically synonymous with tech jobs, including hotel chains, retailers, investment firms, railroads and even the Internal Revenue Service.
All of these industries have announced on recruiting platforms that they are still hiring software engineers, data scientists, and cybersecurity experts despite the Big Tech layoffs. It offers them a chance to level the playing field against the tech giants, who have long been cherry-picking top talent with lucrative compensation, attractive benefits and sheer name recognition.
No employer is making a more aggressive push than the nation’s largest: the federal government, which plans to hire 22,000 tech workers in fiscal year 2023. Federal agencies have participated in a series of “Tech to Gov” job forums aimed in part at work. away from workers in hopes of easing its own chronic labor shortages, which have stymied efforts to strengthen cybersecurity defenses and modernize the way they deliver benefits and collect taxes.
“It’s a real opportunity for the federal government,” said Rob Shriver, deputy director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. “We have just about any technical job that anyone could be interested in doing in the federal government.”
Federal, state and local government tech job postings rose 48 percent in the first three months of 2023 compared to the same period last year, according to data from technology group CompTIA workforce analytics firm Lightcast. That was a stark contrast to a 33 percent decline in tech job openings during that time in the tech industry and a 31.5 percent slowdown in such jobs across the economy, according to CompTIA figures.
Tech hiring hit an all-time high of more than 4 million in 2022, although hiring began to decline in the second half of the year, according to CompTIA. This year, between January and May, there have been about 1.26 million technology submissions, which is more than in pre-pandemic years, said Tim Herbert, director of research at CompTIA.
Competition for tech talent is certainly still fierce, and many companies, including tech companies, are still hiring — just at a slower pace. The unemployment rate for technology workers is only 2 percent. But some who lost their jobs at Big Tech quickly found jobs at non-tech companies.
After Hector Garcia, 53, was fired by Meta’s Facebook in November, it didn’t take long for him to be snapped up by Chicago-based global healthcare company Abbott, which plans to hire hundreds of software engineers, data architects and cybersecurity analysts over the next few years.
“I decided to go for something I hadn’t done before,” said Garcia, a data architect who said he had received offers from tech companies but was intrigued by the idea of working for a manufacturer that produces something tangible in medical devices.
Jonathan Johnson, CEO of online retailer Overstock, said applications for tech jobs were up 20% in the first quarter compared to the previous year. He also stated that it takes less time to fill a position than a year ago and that the quality of applicants has improved.
“There’s less demand and more supply,” Johnson said.
The layoffs have been particularly jarring for the newest generation of workers, who are too young to remember the dot-com bubble burst in 2000 and “grew up consuming apps and services from big tech brands,” said education manager Christine Cruzvergara. Head of Strategy at Handshake, the leading career site for college students and graduates.
“Last year’s instability and layoffs shook the picture of stability and growth,” Cruzvergara said.
In September 2022-2023, the share of technology company applications in Handshake decreased by 4.4 percentage points compared to last year. In contrast, the share of applications from large technology companies for public works on the platform increased by 2.5 percentage points.
Tech companies continued to see a 46 percent increase in applications from tech majors as Handshake received more applications from that group. But applications for government jobs increased much faster, tripling from last year. The number of applications for nutrition and health care jobs also increased from large technology companies – 18 percent and 82 percent respectively – and their share of applicants remained stable.
Kevin Monahan, director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Career and Professional Development, said he saw the first change last fall before major layoffs. More and more students returned from internships saying that tech companies did not extend job offers or return internships at that time.
“Indirectly, the students saw the writing on the wall,” Monahan said.
Ly Na Nguyen, a computer science major at Columbia University, said she left LinkedIn for a couple of weeks at the height of the layoffs because it was so depressing to read messages from people upset about their layoffs. Nguyen is happy to return to Amazon this summer for a new internship, which he says has boosted the prestige of his resume. But openings from outside of Big Tech have caught his eye.
“Right now, I’m very flexible,” Nguyen said. “I would definitely look at a government job.”
In March, young technology workers from several federal agencies spoke on the Handshake online forum about the government’s urgent need to recruit new talent. Less than 7% of the federal workforce is under the age of 30.
“No one is necessarily going to get rich working in government,” said Chris Kuang, a U.S. Digital Corp., founder of a federal fellowship program for early-stage technologies, responded to a question about the salary. But he encouraged students to consider benefits such as retirement plans, job stability and the ability to handle “everything under the sun.”
“In this economy, federal employment is one of the most secure types,” Kuang said.
The government faces plenty of competition from private sector companies that make similar
Hotels and restaurants also posted slightly more tech jobs in the first quarter of 2023 compared to last year, according to CompTIA figures, as the industry recovers from economic turmoil caused by the pandemic.
Hilton saw 152% more internship and full-time job applications for Handshake technology’s core business this academic year compared to the previous year.
“We want to clear up the mystified thinking of, ‘Hey, if I want to work in tech, I have to go work for a tech company,'” Laura Fuentes, Hilton’s chief human resources officer, said at Handshake’s annual conference of business and college leaders.