Job Site Data Shows IT Jobs Down Across the Board
October 25, 2010 Timothy Prickett Morgan
There are a lot of official and unofficial indicators in the IT job market. The way the United States government calculates the unemployment rate is less than rigorous–some would say disingenuous, others would say a boldface lie–and we don’t really have a good indicator for job openings and unemployed workers by the job that they perform, or more precisely that they would like to if they could find a job.
I am always trying to figure out ways to gauge what is going on in the AS/400 and successor markets, and a little more than two years ago I did some scans on the three big IT jobs sites–Dice, CareerBuilder, and Monster–searching for jobs by various programming language, database, operating system, and platform names. I wasn’t precisely sure of it at the time when I did the first survey of the IT jobs on those three sites and created word clouds to show the relative importance of each search term in terms of open positions, but this was before the Great Recession kicked in. And what I can tell you after repeating the searches last week on the same terms (and tossing a few new ones in) is that almost every programming language, database, and platform mentioned in jobs has seen a big decline in terms of open positions.
This, of course, is not surprising, given that the U.S. economy is still on the mend and job creation is happening at a glacial pace.
As I did in June 2008, I went to the three job sites and had their search engines sift through the tens of thousands of open positions in their databases across all industries in America, looking for terms like RPG, AS/400, IBM i, Java, and what have you. Without culling all of the job postings and doing a Google-class, MapReduce crunching of all those jobs to see which ones are the same, it is impossible for me to figure out how many unique jobs there actually are out there. So I averaged the numbers across the three sites to come up with a relative indicator. In the case where Monster reports 5,000 or more jobs and doesn’t give a hard number, I threw the number out of the calculation of the average.
When you do this, here’s the raw data of job openings by programming language or database mentioned in a job opening. I do not attempt to remove any overlap where a job opening might have RPG and Java, or DB2 and Oracle, in the same job opening:
I don’t like showing cooked data visually without showing you the raw data, which allows you to make your own conclusions. I don’t like relying on seasonally adjusted data absent from the raw data either, when you are talking about various economic indicators, mainly because I think that in abnormal times (such as the ones we are living through now) the normal seasonal adjustments do more to hide what is going on than compensate for seasonal changes.
Here’s what the data for job listings by programming language looks like graphically:
This is a word cloud that shows the relative importance by job type, which shows the magnitude of the number of job openings by programming language by adjusting the font size of each programming language:
You can’t see it, but RPG is the tiny smidgen on the upper left of the graphic, COBOL is kinda tiny above C++ and C#, and Fortran is an even smaller spec to the right above COBOL and to the left of .NET. As you can see, the IT job market is, based on the average of the data culled from Dice, CareerBuilder, and Monster, basically shouting Java at the top of its lungs, with some loud talk about C# and .NET. The interesting bit is that of all the different programming languages that I looked at back in June 2008, PHP is the only one showing growth in terms of the raw number of job openings. I added Ruby on Rails this time around because it is increasingly popular out there in the data centers and programmer cubicles of the world. RPG, COBOL, and Fortran have been hit harder in terms of job openings, and C++ has not held up as well as C## and is now, in fact, outnumbering C++ instead of tying it. The other new term I added here was MySQL, and as you might expect, the number of jobs looking for MySQL skills is nowhere near the openings for SQL Server.
None of this data is reckoned against the size of the potential job pool, so don’t get freaked out by the relatively low number of RPG jobs. If there are indeed somewhere north of 100,000 IBM i shops in the world, as I discussed last week, there are probably 250,000 or so programmers coding RPG, Java, or PHP on the platform, with a smattering of COBOL. There are probably over 10 million Java programmers in the world, and lots of them are in the States, so having somewhere around 11,000 job openings is not that much juicier than the RPG base in terms of the ratio of the openings compared to the programming pool. There are more job openings, but there are also more people chasing them.
Just for fun, I also did a job count by the popular operating system or relevant terms often used to describe a particular platform. This was to give some sort of sense about the relative popularity of different platforms, but again, Windows and Linux have huge installed bases, so having lots of job openings doesn’t necessarily mean it is healthier than the IBM i market. It very much likely means that it is a whole lot larger. Take a look:
Because it is easier to take this data in graphically, here’s what it looks like in a chart:
What is immediately obvious in the tabular and chart data is that people still call the platform the AS/400. Interestingly, there are about 40 percent as many AS/400 jobs as AIX jobs averaged across these three job sites this time around, and it was 34 percent two years ago when I did the same searches. Linux platforms showed the least shrinkage across all platforms I looked at, and the AS/400 did better than Unix and Windows platforms in terms of reducing the shrinkage. That said, AS/400 jobs are still, numerically speaking, pretty scarce. If you are a PHP or Ruby developer with Linux experience, you are probably feeling pretty good about your job prospects, if you know your stuff.
That said, what the job listings cannot show us is how many hundreds of thousands of RPG and Java programmers working on IBM i platforms are doing their work quite happily and adding value to their companies–while even more than a few are probably dabbling in PHP to boot. The thing to do no matter what platform you work upon is to expand your skillbase and make yourself more useful. That’s hard, of course. But it is the only way to be safe.