The IT job market during the COVID pandemic: How things are going

The COVID pandemic has had a heavy impact on the world economy. According to media reporting, this is also having an influence on the job market. But how is the pandemic really affecting job opportunities, and what does it all mean for the IT sector?

There’s no doubt that the COVID pandemic has taken its toll on the job market. According to the Dutch National Statistics Office, the market shrank by 3% during the second quarter of 2020, which amounts to 322,000 jobs lost. And this does not even account for the fact that many employees who kept their jobs still faced lay-offs and reductions in working hours. Without massive support from the government, those numbers would have been even higher.

It’s hard to believe that the number of job vacancies had actually reached a record high in the first quarter of the year, before the pandemic started, along with a huge decrease in unemployment. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the hospitality industry has been hardest hit by the crisis, but retail and professional services have also been heavily impacted. Notably, temporary employment agencies seem to have suffered the worst impacts of all on today’s job market. They reported 130,000 jobs lost, a decrease of 17%.

Working from home increases demand

The changes that came along with the (partial) lockdown starting in March were also felt in the IT industry. With the major shift towards working from home, there has also been growing demand for cloud and security specialists. On the other hand, there are fewer jobs available for system and applications managers. This is mainly caused by cuts in IT departments within organisations, which is a common occurrence in times of economic uncertainty.

Rabobank painted a rather sombre picture of the Information and Communication sector in its quarterly economic reports released in June and September. It’s important to note that Rabobank considers publishers, advertising agencies, and radio/TV broadcasters to be a part of that sector. The bank reported that major investments have been postponed, leading to a decrease in demand for IT staff. To make matters worse, many end clients who use the services of companies in this sector have also gone bankrupt. The bank predicts that the market will gradually recover starting next year.

Data specialists step to the front

So, is there any good news? Yes, of course. The Dutch National Statistics Office reported very modest growth in the number of information and communication jobs (around 1,000 new jobs). There seems to be an increase in demand for applications managers in particular, with a 16% increase since the beginning of April 2020.

There’s still also a shortage of data specialists. Despite the crisis, the number of jobs available for data managers and data engineers grew by more than 50% in March 2020 compared to 2019. This is a sign that companies still understand the importance of efficient use of data, even during uncertain times. The boom in online retail and services is certainly also contributing to this growth.

The IT job market is still going strong

Even during the crisis, there is still a shortage of IT personnel to fill the available jobs, and that does not show any sign of stopping. Just look at the so-called job opportunity rating issued to the IT industry by the Dutch National Statistics Office. This rating indicates the number of vacancies per 1,000 jobs within a sector. In the IT sector, the number remains high at 43 vacancies per 1,000 jobs. For comparison: the average for all sectors in the second quarter of 2020 was 24.