The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its 2020 occupational employment survey (OES) on March 31. This data is used by Forrester for forecasting US business and government spending on tech staff, utilizing both the data on tech jobs by industry and on average annual salaries for different tech positions.
But the OES is also useful for insights on the state of demand for different types of tech-related work, as well as insights on which industries hired or laid off tech workers in the midst of 2020’s pandemic recession. Here are some key takeaways:
US Tech Jobs Grew By 1.2%, With Data Scientists And Information Security Analysts Most In Demand
The 2020 OES was conducted in May 2020, near the low point in the pandemic recession. Total US employment in May 2020 was 12% lower (or 17.6 million fewer jobs) than in May 2019. But tech jobs had avoided that fate:
The total number of US tech jobs in May 2020 was 1.2% higher than in May 2019. Total employment for computer and information system managers and a dozen or so tech-related occupations among both tech vendors and tech users was 4,981,000, an increase of almost 60,000 from 2019 levels. Information security analysts increased by almost 10%. The rapid expansion in support for work-from-home arrangements for employees and remote learning systems for students created the potential for similarly rapid expansion in the points of security exposure. Firms hired 12,000 more security specialists to deal with these security risks. There was 5% growth in the numbers of computer managers, software developers, web developers, and computer network architects. Computer managers and computer network architects were in high demand to support new working-and-learning arrangements and the demands that put on networks. But IT departments also faced demands to support new customer sales, marketing, and services channels, which drove demand for software and web developers.
Computer programmer jobs continued to shrink, down 10.7%. This is a multiyear trend as companies adopt more software-as-a-service applications that have more limited room for customization and as the expansion of no-code/low-code options makes it easier for non-specialists to create custom apps when needed.
Network and computer system administrators, operations research analysts, and computer systems analysts experienced reduced demand. The number of jobs here fell by 3% to 4%, as firms pared the staff for running internal systems and supporting major process change initiatives. The number of computer research scientists fell by 2%, while the “Computer occupations, all other” category saw an almost 8% decline. Some of that decrease in “all other,” though, is the reclassification of data scientist jobs into its own new category.
- Reduced workforces did cause small decreases in tech support staff. Given the steep 12% decline in total US employment from 2019 to 2020, the 1% to 2% decrease in the number of computer user and computer network support specialists should be seen as relatively positive news for these positions.
Average salaries for tech workers generally rose in 2020.
- The biggest increases were in the data and analytics occupations of database administrators and architects (3.9%) and data scientists (3.4%).
- But average salaries for computer network support specialists rose at a similar rate of 3.5%.
- Overall, average salaries for most tech jobs rose by around 2%.
- The biggest surprise was the 0.4% increase in average salaries for information and security analysts, despite the 10% growth in the number of jobs.
Implications For The 2021 US Tech Market Outlook
The OES report is one more sign that the 2020 pandemic recession was much less damaging to the US tech market than we had feared. At the same time, it does limit the growth potential for 2021 with relatively few layoffs of tech workers in 2020, there is less room for rehiring.
The e-commerce-related industries that ramped up hiring in 2020 may now be fully staffed, so our expectation is that tech job growth in 2021 will be moderate, in the 2% to 3% range.
Given steady growth in jobs and continued low inflation, we think compensation growth will remain in the same range of 2% to 3%, so our forecast is that total spending on compensation and benefits for tech staff in IT departments will grow by around 5% in 2021.