In looking over the labor numbers for my recent Washington DC blog, “Government Stimulus Comes Home to Roost?” I also observed that employment numbers were up in Houston and Dallas as of the end of 2008, as per UBLS statistics. Does this mean a viable market for IT workers in those cities right now? I’ll also report on the putative and anecdotal state of things for IT professionals in my own metro area — namely, the Austin – San Marcos, TX, MSA, currently ranked at number 16 nationwide, and a mildly notorious hotbed for high-tech activity.
On the face of it, Texas is suffering somewhat less than the rest of the nation from the downturn, both in terms of unemployment (6.4% for Texas versus 8.1% nationwide as of March, 2009) and in terms of job opportunities for IT professionals (modest growth under 2% for 2008, flat to -1% so far for 2009). Houston (national rank: fourth) and Dallas (national rank: eighth) are numbers 1 and 3 in Texas by size, with San Antonio (national rank: seventh) smack dab in the middle. A quick perusal of IT classifieds for either Houston or “the Big D” show plenty of IT job openings, and reasonably brisk traffic in same (average listing turnover is under 5 weeks).
But the word on the street, my own recent personal experience, and anecdotal evidence from my professional network shows that most of the IT workforce is running scared. Those with jobs in IT are working harder than ever to keep them, and those looking for work are spreading lots of resumes around and interviewing like mad, without really making much tangible progress. Based on my observations, there’s a strong negative correlation between years of experience/job level/pay history and the expectation of finding a suitable position and/or a reasonable job offer. In other words, those of us who’ve been in the biz for 10 years or more, and who are used to making comfortable salaries, must either face drastic pay cuts, or continued under- or unemployment.
Before you pull up stakes and come to my lovely home state, I’d urge you to land a position beforehand. If you’re coming here just to look, you’ll have to get in line with all the locals already looking for IT work. Sometimes the statistics don’t do complete justice to the situation on the ground, and this is one case where I’ll beg to differ with the obvious conclusions that the numbers appear to present.
That said, I can suggest one area where opportunities do seem to be perking up: outsourcing services. As a freelancer, I go where the work is, and that’s meant that much of my current income stream has been shrinking as companies cut back on budgets. At the same time, my volume of work from outsourcing companies that manage customer relationships, provide Internet content for large corporations, or build what I like to call “edusales” content (educational and informative, but with an ultimate aim of selling readers on the sponsor’s products or services) has been booming. All of these companies report that business is up considerably lately, as even the biggest corporations trim back on in-house staff and activies, and turn increasingly to professional outsourcing outfits to meet their need to keep their customers engaged. If you’re looking for fertile ground, it’s the best equivalent for IT job search I’ve come across so far. In fact, I can unequivocally say that “If you know Eloqua well, drop me a line and I’ll hook you up with a company that’s in desperate need of more Eloqua expertise than they can find themselves.” May this bring a ray of sunshine to somebody’s otherwise dull, drab day!