Is there a drop in software engineer job openings, globally?
Originally published on 23 March 2023.
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There’s plenty of news and anecdotal evidence suggesting the jobs market for software engineers is cooling. In October 2022, I wrote about the start of a Big Tech hiring slowdown. Then in December 2022, I collected insights from tech recruiters, concluding that the market had slowed down from the frenzy of 2021-Q1 2022 and noted that every recruiter had shared there was some slowdown in the number of positions companies were hiring for. That same month, after gathering insights from more than 30 hiring managers, my conclusion was that in almost all regions, it was easier to hire.
But what about “hard” data on trends in software engineer hiring? I delved into an existing data source for startups hiring software engineers, the monthly “Who is Hiring” thread on Hacker News, and also analyzed a newly available data source, the Indeed Job Postings Index.
Startup software engineer job openings, based on Hacker News listings
Hacker News is one of the most popular sites for software engineers. Every month, it runs a “Who is Hiring?” forum, where Hacker News readers from hiring companies can post jobs, with one post per company. The vast majority of posts are related to software engineering.
I collected historical data on the number of companies posting positions per month, from 2014. Here’s how the number of postings have fluctuated over time:
We see a noticeable dip in April 2020 – when Covid-19 lockdowns began – when the number of companies hiring dropped from 670 to 480. The “peak” in companies advertising positions on Hacker News was between June and November 2021, and in September that year I covered The perfect storm causing an insane tech hiring market, then followed up with observations on unusual off-cycle compensation increases that November.
Since then, the number of companies posting on this forum has steadily declined. Zooming in on the past 3 years, between February 2020 and March 2023:
So when was the peak in the number of “roles vacant” posts? I define “peak” as being a quantity of posts that’s 150% higher or more, than in February 2020. By this definition, the peak was February-November 2021:
Although the number of postings has fluctuated month to month, we can confidently say there were about half the number of job listings on ‘Who is Hiring’ between September 2022 and today, than in June-November 2021.
Startup developer engineer job openings, based on the Indeed Job Postings Index
The Indeed Job Postings Index is a data source made public thanks to Indeed’s Hiring Lab. The data is a “Job Postings Index” segmented by country and category. 100 is the reference data point, representing the number of job postings on 1 February 2022. I’ve visualized the data for “Software Developer” job listings on Indeed, and here’s the three “hottest” markets:
The “peak” of the market was between mid-2021 and mid-2022 in most markets. It’s interesting that Australia was the “hottest” market of all, as benchmarked by Indeed. Also interesting to see is that while the number of software developer job postings this month in the US and Canada is about equal to February 2020. In Australia, it’s almost double.
Not all markets were as “hot” as the US, Canada and Australia. The next two “hottest” markets were Germany and the UK:
A surprising data point is that software developer job postings in the UK never reached 1.5x higher than the February 2020 point. Equally surprising is that software developer job listings in Germany grew faster than in the UK, and still remain well above February 2020 levels. This is eye-catching, given employee protections are much stricter in Germany than in markets like the UK, where I’d assume hiring activity would shift to, even during a downturn.
Another surprising data point is France:
In France, there’s no sign of fewer software developer positions being posted. In fact, the number of positions seems to be near its highest since February 2020!
Finally, the most puzzling data comes from Japan:
Software developer listings in Japan seem to be always on the rise; now at more than 3x the level of February 2020.
I struggled to understand the Japan data, as it defied everything we see about the global market. Luckily, Izadi Egizabal Alkorta - an Android engineer based in Tokyo - reached out after the publishing of this article to shed light on the unusual upwards trend, sharing:
“I believe the weird readings in Japan could be explained by how Indeed is becoming more popular of a platform here. I now often see Indeed Japan's advertising both on YouTube and around Tokyo. This could be combined with the fiscal year budgeting timings (first in April with the new fiscal year and then October after assessing their funds after half a year); explaining the upwards trend & the spikes respectively.”
What can we take from the Hacker News and Indeed data points? The Indeed data points provide lots of regional data:
- There was a peak in software developer positions posted on the forum between mid-2021 and mid-2022 for the US, Canada, Australia and UK.
- The US, Canada and UK are currently seeing some of the lowest numbers of developer job listings since Feb 2020.
- Germany, France and Australia still have significantly more developer jobs than in February 2020.
- Japan is a market where developer jobs on Indeed keep growing. However, this is partially due because Indeed is gaining market share in the country, and partially because of how fiscal budgeting happens in April and October in the country.
All together, we can say that the second half of 2021 saw a spike in software engineer job listings, and also that listings are today roughly at the level they were in February 2020 in the US, Canada and UK, and for the Hacker News startup and scaleup job opportunities.
This was one out of the five topics covered in this week’s The Scoop. A lot of what I share in The Scoop is exclusive to this publication, meaning it’s not been covered in any other media outlet before and you’re the first to read about it.
The full The Scoop edition additionally covers:
- Amazon job cuts deepen. Last week, the hot topic at Amazon was the leadership doubling down on a return to the office for staff. On Monday, the focus changed when the tech giant unexpectedly announced 9,000 more job cuts, including from profit center AWS. I talked with Amazon engineers to get another pulse check. Exclusive.
- Triplebyte shutting down. The startup aiming to make hiring software engineers easier raised $48M in 8 years. It’s now been acquired by rival startup Karat, in what looks like a fire sale. What does this acquisition signal to other startups? Analysis.
- Pay transparency changes in the US. Since January, companies hiring in several US states need to share pay details upfront. How could this change affect the market? I asked the founder of Complete, a startup focused on compensation. Exclusive.
- Why was Dollar Shave Club’s website down for 8 days? Unilever bought the shaving blade delivery service for $1B in 2016. In October of 2022, the popular service’s website went dark and was unusable for more than a week. What happened, and what could engineering teams learn from the incident? Exclusive.
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