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In the job market? New study sees a hiring rebound in tech, though Boston lags behind Bay Area

Posted by Scott Kirsner  February 25, 2010 11:16 AM

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Fresh data about the health of the greater Boston tech job market today, from Natalie Robb at WaveLength Market Analytics, a Virginia firm.

Robb has been tracking the demand for six types of tech jobs since last October: application developers, network engineers, technology sales, technology marketing, technology product management, and technology product marketing, using publicly-available postings on employment sites like Indeed and Monster.com.

In February, Robb noticed a big uptick in openings in the Boston area: 30 percent across those six categories.

The chart below shows where the hiring has been happening over the last three months or so: the biggest gains were in tech product marketing, and hiring in tech sales started to perk up only recently. (Here's Robb's blog post analyzing the data.)


jobsinc.jpg

"Technology product marketing jobs really disappeared last year, which is why that function is rebounding," Robb explains. 

Compared to the resurgence she saw late last year in the Bay Area, Robb found that employment demand in Boston is lagging a bit. In Robb's analysis, the Bay Area shed jobs much more severely at the start of the year, but companies there have also been quicker to hire as they felt conditions stabilizing. 

But in terms of overall job losses in 2009, she reports that Boston lost just 2.12 percent of all tech jobs, compared to 6.9 percent in the Bay Area, 11.5 percent in Austin, and 4.9 percent across a sample of ten cities where tech is a significant industry. 

"Nobody is doing well now, but things are becoming less bad," she says, offering her opinion that late October was the absolute worst time for job seekers.

Using a weather forecast as a metaphor, Robb describes the climate in Boston right now as "light rain," while in the Bay Area it is "intermittent rain and sun."


weather.jpg

Where are jobs disappearing in Boston tech? According to Robb's analysis of data from the Buerau of Labor Statistics, hardware is not the place to be right now. Jobs in "computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing" were down 20 percent from 2004 to 2008, and down another 5.4 percent last year. Jobs in "computer and electronic product manufacturing" were down 9 percent from 2004 to 2008, and another three percent last year.

In contrast, jobs in "computer systems design" (which includes writing custom software and providing IT-related services) were up 27 percent from 2004 to 2008, and another 2.2 percent last year. Software was another growth area, with payroll increasing 17 percent from 2004 to 2008, but down three percent last year.

This is the first report from Wavelength on the Boston job market; here's the most recent report from Wavelength on Bay Area employment dynamics.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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