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Programming United States

Demand For Programmers Hits Full Boil as US Job Market Simmers (bloomberg.com) 272

When the American job market heats up, demand for technology talent boils, an anonymous reader writes citing a Bloomberg report. From the story: Nationally, the unemployment rate was 4.1 percent in January, and analysts project that it declined to 4 percent, the lowest since 2000, in Labor Department figures due Friday. For software developers, the unemployment rate was 1.9 percent in 2017, down from 4 percent in 2011. While companies are writing bigger checks, they are also adopting new strategies to find engineers for an economy where software is penetrating even mundane processes. Companies are focusing more on training, sourcing new talent through apprenticeships, and looking at atypical pools of candidates who have transferable skills.

"It is probably the most competitive market in the last 20 years that I have been doing this," said Desikan Madhavanur, chief development officer at Scottsdale, Arizona-based JDA Software, whose products help companies manage supply chains. "We have to compete better to get our fair share." What's happening in the market for software engineers may help illustrate why one of the tightest American labor markets in decades isn't leading to broader wage gains. While technology firms are looking at compensation, they are also finding ways to create the supply of workers themselves, which helps hold costs down.

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Demand For Programmers Hits Full Boil as US Job Market Simmers

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  • Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @10:50AM (#56258963)

    What is in extremely high demand is programmers with 20 years of experience in a technology that has been around for 5, no older than 19 and working for 20k a year.

    And that demand will be high, forever.

    Pay more and you get more. Pay this and what you get is code monkeys that couldn't find a better employer.

    • Re:Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @11:10AM (#56259143)

      What is in extremely high demand is programmers with 20 years of experience in a technology that has been around for 5, no older than 19 and working for 20k a year.

      And that demand will be high, forever.

      Pay more and you get more. Pay this and what you get is code monkeys that couldn't find a better employer.

      Sadly you're not joking. .NET came out in 2002. I remember looking for a job in 2003 and every job I looked at was asking for programmers with 5 to 10 years or more of .NET programming experience. ... it's no wonder some people embellish their resumes.

      • What is in extremely high demand is programmers with 20 years of experience in a technology that has been around for 5, no older than 19 and working for 20k a year.

        And that demand will be high, forever.

        Pay more and you get more. Pay this and what you get is code monkeys that couldn't find a better employer.

        Sadly you're not joking. .NET came out in 2002. I remember looking for a job in 2003 and every job I looked at was asking for programmers with 5 to 10 years or more of .NET programming experience. ... it's no wonder some people embellish their resumes.

        I'm not a code developer, but rather an engineer. This is why if I only applied to jobs that I was qualified for to a "T", I would never get hired. If a job description sort of sounds like what I'm interested in and what I'm sort of qualified for, I apply. And it has worked at least once. And, sometimes the job description isn't all that accurate.

      • Re:Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @11:50AM (#56259421)

        Problem here is multi-layer. For one thing, HR drones cannot quantify quality with a metric that is not "X years of experience", so if you tell them "Find me an Excellent .NET Developer for this project!" what they hear is "Find me a Developer with 10 years of experience for this project." The pay of course is another aspect, the employers thing that everyone is desperate, and if they waste enough of your fucking time you will just take whatever they offer. And lastly, they always want some one proficient in their EXACT stack, which given number of Frontend x Backend x Database x IDE technologies limits their pool of candidates to a fraction. It is retarded for me to think that someone who knows one MVC framework cannot pick up another one in a week. A bicycle is a bicycle is a bicycle.

        • Yeah...all this churn and burn and games looking for people with experience in specific shit and all it really takes is for a good person to look at new tech for 2-4 weeks before they can run with it. The last think you want in tech is to hire someone with ten years experience to do the same thing they have been doing for ten years.

        • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @01:42PM (#56260331) Homepage Journal

          HR drones cannot quantify quality with a metric that is not "X years of experience", so if you tell them "Find me an Excellent .NET Developer for this project!" what they hear is "Find me a Developer with 10 years of experience for this project."

          You're confusing them by using Roman numerals.

      • by CodeHog ( 666724 )
        "Microsoft began developing .NET Framework in the late 1990s, originally under the name of Next Generation Windows Services (NGWS), as part of the .NET strategy. By late 2000, the first beta versions of .NET 1.0 were released." Technically 1.0 did come out in 2002. But it had been around in beta before that time. And some people may have worked with it for 5 years but not 10 years at that time. Job postings tend to put experience in buckets too. So 5 to 10 years really means, have you worked on it, do you k
        • Yes. I started working with .NET back in 1997 or 1998. It took a long time before the betas officially came out, and then another long time before 1.0 was officially released, so yes, by 2003 I had 5-6 years of experience with it, but not 10.

          That said, yes, I've seen many requirements that are impossible to meet unless you were on the development team, or following the project before it was officially announced.

      • by tsstahl ( 812393 )

        Have worked with Microsoft technologies for 12 years, including .NET.

      • I remember looking for a job in 2003 and every job I looked at was asking for programmers with 5 to 10 years or more of .NET programming experience. ... it's no wonder some people embellish their resumes.

        To be fair, and not to be overly condescending or accusatory... you really should have seen what was coming and gotten that experience in before the technology was actually developed. Just because the technology doesn't exist is no excuse for not being experienced in it. If you're not able to work miracles then you're unlikely to have a successful career in software. Case in point: Zuckerberg has a website that isn't even good and he's basically God now.

        No miracles: no salaries.

        It's the software industry ma

        • As a person who has had a lot of development 'side-projects' I can tell you that experience gained out of work means very little to potential employers. You have to be at a job doing 'skill X' for five years for it to register with them as having that qualification. Your Zuckerberg example isn't really fitting either since Zuckerberg's real 'in' was not knowing any special technology, but starting a website that a lot of people liked at the right time in the internet expansion, and they told others. He a
        • I remember looking for a job in 2003 and every job I looked at was asking for programmers with 5 to 10 years or more of .NET programming experience. ... it's no wonder some people embellish their resumes.

          To be fair, and not to be overly condescending or accusatory... you really should have seen what was coming and gotten that experience in before the technology was actually developed. Just because the technology doesn't exist is no excuse for not being experienced in it. If you're not able to work miracles then you're unlikely to have a successful career in software. Case in point: Zuckerberg has a website that isn't even good and he's basically God now.

          No miracles: no salaries.

          It's the software industry mantra.

          Thank you, and I did learn from my mistakes. I've already started learning COBOLscript, which is certain to replace JavaScript sometime in the next decade as the default client side language of the web.

      • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
        That was the trick. Cant find the person in the USA after running all the programming experience ads in the US press?
        Time to get a low paid person from another nation to fill that job.
        The "ads" had to be run for a set time in the US to legally show the position could not be filled.
    • Re:Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Archon ( 13753 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @11:12AM (#56259155)

      I have clients who struggle filling positions. When I inquire, I find it's never that there aren't applicants, just not applicants of sufficient quality. And in those cases, when I ask how much more they're offering for the position above market rates, they all look at me with bewilderment.

      Also that unemployment rate? Manufactured horesehit. http://www.shadowstats.com/alt... [shadowstats.com]

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Yeah, the idea that they should pay more for talent is bizarre to them. That's why H1Bs are so popular. It puts the employer-employee relationship where it should be - with all the power on the employer's side.
      • Re:Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Comrade Ogilvy ( 1719488 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @01:12PM (#56260063)

        It is old school business classes that taught them the way to be a successful manager is control costs, as if workers were just another ingredient to pour into a big machine that manufactures product.

        If you really need someone with significant technical, "overpaying" them 20% does not matter, if the business is using their skills very effectively. Of course, that implicitly throws the responsibility on the managers.

        They do not want to pay more probably because they suck at their jobs. In a real business, you pay, say, $1 million in salaries, $1 million in various business costs (rent, insurance, advertising, etc.), charge $3 million for your services and the business owner pockets $1 million in "profit" (which has to pay off the capital/investment costs to create the business in the first place). In this context, arguing over whether your salary costs are $1.00 million or $1.02 million, when you need to pay a little extra to hire key people the whole business running well, is pretty idiotic.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Opportunist ( 166417 )

          Overpaying someone 100% doesn't matter if that person is worth it. If a person costs me 10k a month and makes me 50, paying him 20k is STILL better than losing him.

      • Questions:
        1) How many of those companies say 'Ok we're going to offer more pay than any other company in an attempt to lure someone who is better', and
        2) How many of those companies try to add a benefit, such as working from home, in an attempt to find something better, and
        3) How much thinking 'outside of the box' is there at all? It seems most companies see that other companies are paying $X for skill Y so they offer $X for skill Y. If you're not exceeding the market you're not using the market prop
    • Plus a PhD, black belt in at least one martial art and ideally a Pisces or Capricorn.

      LBGT^2 preferred.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by elrous0 ( 869638 )

      The only demand I'm seeing is for H1Bs and diversity hires. Sure they're are plenty of *ads* for jobs, but 99.9% of those are put there by recruiters with no actual jobs available for non-H1Bs/non-females/non-minorities, or mandatory posts for jobs where they already have someone in particular in mind (usually an H1B). AFAICT, there are very few actual jobs available for U.S. citizens, especially if you're a white male (who can't check off any diversity quotas) or outside of a few select cities that no one

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Looking for jobs in Europe there are plenty, and they seem more than interesting in non-female non-minority candidates.

        Is the US really that bad? Have you considered a formal complaint on the grounds of discrimination?

        • Re:Correction (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Altus ( 1034 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @12:51PM (#56259891) Homepage

          No, it really isn't that bad. I am a 40 something white male programmer and I know many other 40 something white male programmers and none of them are having trouble getting a job, none of them are getting passed up for hiring or promotion by women or minorities. I suspect the people who complain about it are either just really twisted around and unable to see that they are also not having trouble getting hired and promoted, or they just really aren't as competent as they think they are.

          • by CodeHog ( 666724 )
            I can check that 'passed up for promotion by woman' box. Anecdotal, I know, but it just happened. Damn right I'm pissed off and bitter about it. I was told I've been with the company for 20 years and the top person in my group for 2 or 3 years now and someone new to the company is promoted in a couple of years. I've been working on my next move this year. Picking up Python, have tons of data analytic and big data skills, Java / script, XML, HTML, now what to do with it all.
      • Re:Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

        by RazorSharp ( 1418697 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @12:28PM (#56259739)

        If only minorities were getting hired, then there would probably be a lot more minorities in the tech sector.

        The real problem is that tech companies want to pay programmers blue collar wages. This is why their push for minorities to learn programming is no more than an attempt to saturate the market with skilled programmers to depress wages. H1B workers are another method to do this.

        I'm telling my kids to stay the hell away from programming unless they couple it with some other specialty, like biology. Programming by itself just isn't special anymore. If you want to do something worthwhile (both financially and personally) with it, you have to be able to pair it with another discipline. No one's going to pay someone a lot to develop a silly iPhone game or create a simple retail POS.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          "Programming" is a huge field. Some types are very well paid and in demand, some are not.

          My friend is doing front end Javascript. Apparently demand is huge and he is raking it in. I know, front end Javascript of all things. But he says back end guys are ten a penny. He used to do it himself but front end pays twice as much.

          There is also the question of quality. In embedded stuff there are a lot of electrical engineers who write a bit of code too. They can do okay firmware for simple stuff, but if you want a

        • "Programming by itself just isn't special anymore. "

          Bullshit. Most people do not like it. It is not easy money.

        • The real problem is that tech companies want to pay programmers blue collar wages.. This is why their push for minorities to learn programming is no more than an attempt to saturate the market with skilled programmers to depress wages.

          That's a bit far-fetched, considering that the average wage for a programmer [indeed.com] is 3x the average blue collar wage [indeed.com]. What a job is worth depends on how much productivity it generates. An employer will be willing to pay up to slightly less than the productivity generated by a jo

          • It's actually the employee's job to do their job; not negotiate salaries. In a reasonable and balanced world, a professional class would handle all the negotiation for the productive laborers. This already happens at the top end (exectutives and media stars). The rest of us simply can't afford fair representation.

    • must be able to work 60-80 hours a week

    • Re:Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @11:57AM (#56259487)

      What is in high demand is coders that know how use their code to actually do something else.

      I almost exclusively write code at work and I'm a mechanical engineer. The code is just a means to an end. A way to do something that we did 10 or 20 years ago faster. Expecting to get a job just knowing how to program is like trying to get a job just knowing how to swing a hammer.

      All of the jobs I've found are like that. My last position was $60/hr, teleworking. There was no 'coding test'. The languages I know appear on one line in my resume. In the on-site interview they were never brought up. It is just treated like "MS Office" is on my resume.

      • by mikael ( 484 )

        I've seen that as well. For the past 20 years, I've been to job interviews where the companies give out programming tests and explain it is because the graduates coming out of the universities don't know what pointers are, how to implement linked lists or even how C++ destructors. They then require that various positions require a degree in medical imaging or fluid dynamics.

      • Correct, too. I do know a fairly large selection of programming languages pretty well, but that never comes up in interviews either. It's basically the requirement. You wouldn't ask a truck driver if he can drive stick or a accountant whether he can calculate. You simply assume they can because it's a basic requirement for the job.

    • by ranton ( 36917 )

      What is in extremely high demand is programmers with 20 years of experience in a technology that has been around for 5, no older than 19 and working for 20k a year.

      On top of that, demand for programmers with 10+ years of experience, with 3+ years of experience in some technology that has been around for 5, and the ability to communicate with developers, users, department VPs, and C-level execs, is incredibly high right now. High enough to push total compensation over $200k even in Midwest markets. When companies say they want more programmers, they tend to either want the low paid code monkeys you mention, or the senior devs / architects I mentioned. The demand for an

      • What is always in demand, and well paid, is people who excel in more than just "programming" or "IT stuff". You can make insane amounts of money if you manage to combine legal with IT or financial auditing and IT.

        Banks have deep pockets...

    • If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

  • by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @10:59AM (#56259049)
    If demand is really greater than supply, then programmers should be able to ask for reasonable accommodation from employers (i.e. reasonable working hours and vaca time). If people actually showed a backbone, this has the potential to chance cultures.
  • by layabout ( 1576461 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @11:04AM (#56259099)
    If the market is so good for developers, why do very good programmers in their 60s, who have current skills, have such a hard time finding work?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sinij ( 911942 )

      If the market is so good for developers, why do very good programmers in their 60s, who have current skills, have such a hard time finding work?

      Because they are all universally white, male, and tend to be conservative.

      • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @11:41AM (#56259339)
        I think it has less to do with that and more to do with them being unwilling to be worked like dogs as you see more often with the fresh batch of college graduates that will line up for a 60+ hour weekly grind.
        • Yeah. There is a major gap in how early career people see work and how later career people see work. The older people (45+) tend to not keep up on tech and are next to impossible to motivate or engage. They already proved themselves several times and are not compelled to do it again. I'm 40 and though I try to balance my life and spend time with my family I do not rest. I'm ready for the grind and I LOVE testing and developing new tech.

      • And they don't play foosball all day.
    • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @11:36AM (#56259311) Homepage

      ... are quite often clueless gimps in their 20s and 30s who don't understand the skills older people can bring - above and beyond years of coding experience - and assume they're slower and dumber than someone in their 20s who's all enthusiam but doesn't have much of a clue.

    • If the market is so good for developers, why do very good programmers in their 60s, who have current skills, have such a hard time finding work?

      It's a good question. I can give you some answers.
      1) Their experience, although good, is in older technology instead of the current flavor of the day that will itself be considered antiquated in a few more years.
      2) Often they live in small towns and the only shop that needed them closed. They aren/t willing to move to larger cities where they might find work, so they stay where they are and there simply aren't any other local employers who need their skills.
      3) As someone else said they tend to be

    • If you know such people and they don't mind traveling as part of their job, have them send me their resume.
    • by dAzED1 ( 33635 )
      I'm sorry, but if you're still doing the same level work after 30+ years, there is something wrong with you. At some point, you should have gone in to management, consulting, /something/ other than just being a rank and file engineer still. It's not a poor reflection on a 30year old that they intuitively know this fact.
      • What if you just like development? I do both management and coding and management just sucks. It's a life sucking profession. Developing software is so much more fun.
      • You can be the most brilliant technical person in the world, if you don't have self-sales skills or like to talk about yourself or like to do a lot of useless job interviews then you won't go anywhere.
  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @11:22AM (#56259215) Homepage

    As a devops engineer with 13 years experience, the job opportunities boil down to a few options:

    startup: Web based and the oncall pool is, well, you. pay is decent but your boss is the same age you are and was drafted into the position so the company didnt lose him after 10 years to a competitor. a certified sociopath, your boss will treat you like a whipping boy while upper management blows vc cash on artisan kombucha on tap and vodka shots in the break room. bug reports will languish from your users, completely ignored, as your kanban scrum-bum stand ups quickly turn into sit downs full of hung over or jaded coders ordered to crank out feature after mindless feature.

    enterprise: a multi million dollar faceless conglomerate so large your management team has its own newsletter to properly communicate what different groups in your department are doing. Every single idea you propose will be shot down because it didnt show up in a Gartner success quadrant and didnt come with a shiny presentation from some road warrior poured into a wrinkled suit from JC Penny. after 3 years your cynicism will be indistinguishable from personal affectation in most meetings. no one can be fired here unless theyre a meanie-bo-beanie because incompetence is par for the course. Get ready to explain mundane network concepts to your peers, and give brown bag presentations on git until the end of time, because these lifers are here until the second heart attack or the retirement kicks in and they arent about to rock the boat with Docker.

    contracts.: typically 90 to 180 days, these specify that you must have a minimum 30 years experience in Rust, Dust, Crust, and the german enigma machine. Bonus points for understanding a 50 year old CMS/RCS/client-server application from a company that went bankrupt 12 years ago. perpetual contracts are either offered without question, or the company in question demands to convert you to full time staff after 3 months because short term contracts are the new hiring process for midwestern midsize manufacturing and callcenter/billing institutions that drive some of the most despicable parts of the american dream. Your raise is capped at 1% and education in the region for your kids is either underfunded suburban white mediocrity or some flat-earth megachurch.

    • There really is a 4th option:
      Small companies who wants to get by with the smallest cost with large returns. That's where I usually shine. I have some skills that are top notch, but what I really bring to the table most often is aligning projects with actual company needs. Balancing getting it done quickly with highly maintainable code that works every time. That usually means not using the latest and greatest languages that haven't fully matured yet, or don't have a good support system when you need to

    • Not to mention with the contract option you need to work another job for free on top of the technical job ensuring that you promote yourself enough to get the next job without a break in between. Since contract positions rarely cover cost of health benefits, you start behind everyone else from the start.
    • One other option:

      State/Federal work. - Your work isn't valued, nothing gets done, the pay is shit, but the perks make up for that. You can be 100% incompetent at programming and will never get fired because the amount of paperwork to start the process to replace you, isn't worth the effort.
      Small tasks requiring 1 programmer will take years as the higher-ups change design specs daily, and more and more people are thrown into the dev team until the original program has been twisted so badly it now has it's ow

  • Heck you won't even get an interview. That wasn't the case 20 years ago. Also nobody will train. You better be ready to bang out A grade code day one or you won't make it past the interview.
  • Ding! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cascadingstylesheet ( 140919 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @11:39AM (#56259325)

    While technology firms are looking at compensation, they are also finding ways to create the supply of workers themselves, which helps hold costs down.

    And this is why the bosses (as opposed to the usually sincere workers) at Google, Microsoft, etc. are all behind these "teach every person on Earth to code" programs.

    I'm sorry if little Suzy doesn't want to code, but we need her to help keep down programmer salaries.

    • Re:Ding! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by RazorSharp ( 1418697 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @12:48PM (#56259863)

      I'm sorry if little Suzy doesn't want to code, but we need her to help keep down programmer salaries.

      What's more disgusting is that they pretend to be feminist heroes for trying to steer all these young girls into STEM even if they don't want to. They try to scare parents, insisting that those are the only jobs of the future and little Suzy will be left behind if she pursues her liberal arts dreams. I don't think women should be discouraged from programming, but I also don't believe they should do it if they're not really passionate about it. If you don't find math fun and interesting, programming isn't for you. It's time consuming and difficult, and it's a waste of time to cram it into every student's curriculum when only a fraction of them will actually use it.

      Ideally, elementary schools should teach deductive and inductive logic. Those skills translate into everything: math, programming, argumentative writing, scientific inquiry, etc.

  • fake news (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @11:40AM (#56259333)

    We'll know demand for programmers is up when salaries start rising for the first time in 15 years.

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @11:56AM (#56259467) Journal

    It smells too similar to the dot-com bubble for comfort. During the height of the dot-com bubble, co's didn't pay that well because they gave you stock options instead of big salaries as a signing bonus. And when the bubble popped, the market was flooded with programmers such that jobs were hard to find, at least on the west coast. Therefore, you had no savings because you got stock options that are now worthless, and you had no job. My legacy language experience was the only thing that saved me, and barely.

    One could say "this time is different", but they also said that during the height of mortgage bubble, in terms of comparing that to the dot-com bubble. The reasoning was that homes had concrete value while dot-coms didn't. Didn't matter: the mortgage bubble created the second worse econ slump on record.

    They are saying similar about AI: it's different from the AI bubble of the 80's because real and common products rely on AI now. That may be true, but as mortgages showed, that's not enough. And even if you are not in AI, an AI pop could affect rank and file IT because unemployed AI experts will flood non-AI IT job openings.

    It may indeed be "different this time": a different path to misery. The only consistency is that if it smells bubbly, it probably is. The only real uncertainty is the size and scope of the poppage. Keep a rainy-day fund, people.

    • by Shados ( 741919 )

      The part that really worries me is the reliance on unqualified developers. This was very much the case during the dotcom bubble. There was so much investment money floating around, it didn't matter if 5, 10, 30% of your software developers were barely useful. Know html tags? You're hired!

      It's not quite this bad now, but we still have a huge influx of people who can barely copy paste from stack overflow to make things "work" (until they don't). They rely on the few experienced devs in the team to clean after

    • I got paid well during the dotcom bubble and I also got a bunch of worthless options. I also worked insane hours. Maybe I could/should have done something different with my time. But it's hard to argue for a net-negative effect as it did propel my career, gave me earnings, and kept me out of trouble.
  • When salaries go up in lieu of profits, when all jobs are work from home that can possibly be work from home, and when jobs come with some sort of special benefit to rise above other offers, then you know technology companies are really having a hard time finding people. Until then it is just blowing smoke.
  • "Demand Hits Full Boil as Job Market Simmers"?

    Please change the subhead to "from the tortured-metaphors dept".

Reactor error - core dumped!

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