Recent jobless claims continue to flatten out, but at 8.9% overall, unemployment is still on the high side for the US from a historical perspective (the last time we experienced such rates was in the 1980s, in fact). This creates an interesting situation, in which everybody — including me — is looking for signs of hope wherever they might be found. Recent activity on the stockmarket still shows some vacillation in a sometimes-up, sometimes-down pattern, so financial markets are still uncertain as well.
What does all this mean for IT employment? Conventional wisdom is that those who have jobs should be glad, and do what they can to keep them, and that those looking for work need to turn over as many rocks as possible to find something or anything while the unemployment situation remains so tough. On the other hand, lots of more aggressive technologists and economists believe that technology employment is a bellwether that usually pushes to the front of the group of employment sectors that lead the economy out of a slump (or deep recession, in our current case).
The problem is that while numbers aren’t sliding down as fast as they were in the last quarter of 2008, nor the first quarter of this year, they’re neither on the way up for overall employment, nor particularly upward-inclined for IT in particular. If IT is to lead the economy, the destination isn’t yet clear: as far as I (or anybody else can tell), we’re still meandering around with no easy way to connect the dots along our recent path, nor a definite trend yet in sight.
All I can conclude is that it’s still time to hunker down, and tread the conservative path. As I indicated earlier in this blog, that means if you’ve got a job right now (or work if you’re a freelancer like me) be grateful. If you’re looking for work, alas, this means it’s time to look harder and perhaps even to consider a move to those few markets where employment opportunities are relatively more abundant. Ouch!