Across a national economic downturn and lagging employment, the technology sector is withstanding the worst of the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
While the national unemployment rate rose to 14.7%, the IT unemployment was well under the national average at 4.3%, according to CompTIA analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Friday.
The U.S. saw job losses across sectors, including education and health services, professional and business services, retail trade and manufacturing. Employment for leisure and hospitality dropped 47%, while three-quarters of the losses impacting the food and drink category.
The tech sector lost 112,000 jobs in April, less than 1% of the 12.1 million tech-related workforce members. By comparison, national employment dropped by 20.5 million jobs.
As daily operations are interrupted and the revenue in some sectors collapses, technology has remained in demand, allowing business operations to continue outside the office. But the technology sector is not immune to job losses as companies that employ technical workers navigate the economic slump.
While the technology sector is holding up "reasonably well," the 112,000 job losses in tech is the highest level since BLS began reporting the data, said Tim Herbert, EVP for research and market intelligence at CompTIA, in an interview with CIO Dive.
During the last recession and dot-com bubble, which each saw an unemployment rate in IT occupations of about 6.5%, job losses were accumulated month after month to reach historic levels. But this "happened so quickly," he said.
There is a limiting factor with the BLS data. The industry data include technical and business professionals. If a company counted in a technology category cuts jobs, it doesn't necessarily mean it is scaling back on software developers or other high-tech roles.
Speaking to some CompTIA member companies, there is indication those tech companies that need to cut back, manage cash flow or adjust to the new economic environment will often eliminate sales or retail jobs, Herbert said.
One bright spot is the number of job postings in the tech sector. Across the U.S. there were more than 270,000 job postings for core IT professionals in April, though that number is down from the 360,000 job postings in March, according to CompTIA's IT employment tracker.
Computer systems engineers and architects and computer user support specialists were the most in demand roles.
There is still broad demand for IT professionals, especially as companies support remote work, he said. "We continue to see companies are going to be reluctant to shed IT staff."
What to expect
The data released Friday is the first full month of information collected amid a widespread shutdown and stay-at-home orders and shows an uptick in the unemployment rate in IT occupations compared to March's 2.4%. There is a limiting factor with data, particularly with information collected during a fast-changing crisis.
Even the newly-released data is already outdated.
The jobs report reflected the week of April 12 and since then there's been millions of job losses, said Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, in an interview with CIO Dive.
While the unemployment rate hit almost 15% in April, data from unemployment claims suggests it could reach 20%, Gould said.
But April marks the likely peak of monthly job losses. While Gould "would be surprised" if other months reached April numbers, losing another 5 million to 10 million jobs is significant.
Job losses hit leisure, hospitality and retail particularly hard as storefronts closed and revenues dropped. But the lack of spending has a trickle effect and will in some cases impact jobs that are remote compatible.
For example professional business services, including lawyers and accountants, support other sectors. If demand drops off, job losses could impact those job roles, according to Gould.
The expectation is that next month's report, covering May data, "probably won't be quite as bad as this month's," but will mark another month down in terms of employment, Herbert said.
In tech, there will likely be additional losses, but they won't reach April numbers, he said. Industry is probably in for a couple more months of losses or status quo.
Eventually, there has to be a return to spending and some tech projects can only go on hold for so long. For example, e-commerce tech projects are critical to the bottom line for some companies and can't be delayed too long.
Companies need to be in a position to spend again, but once they are there could be some "pent up demand," Herbert said.