Information technology job growth was among standouts in an otherwise disappointing December jobs report.
U.S. information technology companies increased employment by a net 22,200 workers in December, and hiring for IT-related jobs across all industries posted the largest monthly gain in 2020.
Many of those new jobs are being added in the D.C. region.
Virginia ranked third among states for tech job postings in December, at almost 12,000.
According to D.C.-based IT industry trade group CompTIA, the Washington region ranked first among metro areas, with more than 13,400 tech jobs available at area companies.
CompTIA calls the D.C. region’s tech community one of America’s most vibrant, with as many as 500,000 IT professionals working across defense, commercial and tech startups.
The regional unemployment rate among IT professionals was 3.0% in December, far lower than the national unemployment average of 6.7%.
“Unemployment in the tech sector is very low. In fact, most people could have two jobs if they wanted them,” CompTIA president and CEO Todd Thibodeaux told WTOP.
“And when you see layoffs in the tech sector, they usually are not eliminating their key tech personnel. They’re usually thinning out the ranks of their operational personnel, finance, customer service and other areas where they have lots of individuals working.”
As of December, there were an estimated 5,614,000 tech workers in the U.S. labor force, up from 5,223,000 in November.
Demand for IT skills is high, but demand is higher for certain skillsets.
“Being able to do analytics is becoming an important part of just about every tech job,” Thibodeaux said, “but I think the number one skill that’s out there in demand is for people with cybersecurity skills.”
IT-related jobs usually pay well. And often, acquiring the skills does not require an expensive, four-year college education.
“In fact, the majority of entry-level jobs in tech don’t require a college degree, and we feel like a college degree is not even the best pathway to those jobs. There are all kinds of technical certifications like the ones that we offer,” Thibodeaux said.
“There are great community college programs. You can train for some of these jobs in seven to nine months maximum, and be job ready on day one.”
Among such programs is the nonprofit Virginia Ready initiative. It’s backers include Microsoft, which connects motivated yet out-of-work Virginians with job certification programs offered at community colleges, many of them in IT fields.