December tech hiring stands out amid jobs report dip

Dive Brief:

  • IT hiring across sectors of the U.S economy expanded by 391,000 positions in December, according to a review of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data published Friday by IT trade group CompTIA.  
  • Growth in IT hiring contrasts with the statistics on the overall economy. Nonfarm payroll employment dipped by 140,000 positions in December and unemployment held steady at 6.7%, according to the Department of Labor. The employment contraction is the first dip noted in the monthly reports since April.
  • The December report marks an improvement from November, when the economy shed 128,000 IT jobs after a recovery streak. The tech sector also outperformed the overall economy in December; companies in IT added 22,200 net workers to their payrolls.

Dive Insight:

Despite an initial contraction during the pandemic, IT jobs ended 2020 on the upswing, with signs of more demand ahead.

No strangers to remote work, tech workers are partially protected from the impacts of the pandemic-induced recession. Another factor playing into tech’s comparative resiliency is the demand for digital services, as businesses — and the public — get accustomed to operating under a digital-first model.

The expectation is that the trend will continue, with tech acting as a “catalyst for business and career opportunity,” said Tim Herbert, EVP for research and market intelligence at CompTIA, in a release.

Essential industry processes formerly carried out in person turned remote in the aftermath of the pandemic, with digital products standing in for onsite onboarding, physical meetings and colocated customer service hubs. Tools that enable these processes saw demand and adoption rise.

“Job losses were concentrated in low work-from-home industries,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist at Indeed, in a tweet Friday. “Further evidence that the virus surge hurt the labor market in December and that we backslid into pandemic patterns.”

A sign of the continued demand for digital services is the inclusion of software and cloud upgrades among the approved uses for a second round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. Small businesses can invest up to 40% of the federal loan into cloud and software upgrades, according to the latest stimulus package approved by Congress.