Despite economic uncertainty during the novel coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. IT sector added 8,500 new workers in March, according to an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data by IT trade organization CompTIA.
Across all industry sectors, IT lost 19,000 jobs last month, according to CompTIA. The IT occupations unemployment rate held at 2.4% in March, the same as February.
Industry watchers were "certainly bracing for a much steeper drop," said Tim Herbert, EVP for research and market intelligence at CompTIA, in an interview with CIO Dive. Particularly hard hit industries, such as hotel, restaurants and travel, could see an impact for IT workers they employ, he said. But there is also an argument these workers are strategically important so it would be difficult to lay them off.
COVID-19 is taking a toll on jobs across sectors, crimping economic flow worldwide.
U.S. employment dropped by 701,000 positions, raising the unemployment rate to 4.4% in March, according to BLS data. Losing more than 417,000 jobs, the restaurant and bar industry took the brunt of the March job losses. More than 6.6 million people filed for unemployment for the week ending March 28.
During the 2008 financial crisis — and the dot-com crash of the early 2000s — the IT unemployment rate reached 6.5%, according to CompTIA data.
There is one caveat with BLS data, according to Herbert. The agency typically capture two weeks worth of data and projects the remaining two weeks of the month. In March, the crisis hit the hardest during the last two weeks.
Industry will "get a much better picture next month" of the impact on IT sector jobs, he said.
Companies to watch for indicators of IT job market disruption include the "tech bellwethers," the big tech vendors that contract with other companies and help implement technology. Organizations may pause projects or slow down implementation, which could impact tech employment.
But thus far, leading tech employers are fairly-well positioned, according to Herbert. The largest sectors employing technology workers include IT, financial services, government, information (including search engines and companies in the data space) and healthcare.
By comparison, hotels, restaurants and travel are dominated by SMBs and not as reliant on IT, often outsourcing instead.
"We just don't know at this point if IT is going to hold up," Herbert said. The worst case scenario for this crisis could be a repeat of what industry saw during the recessions in 2009 and 2002.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that the U.S. IT sector added 8,500 new workers in March.