‘Mismatch’ in Seattle’s job market is seeing a drastic shift

Mar 24, 2016, 5:56 AM | Updated: 7:50 am
Tech employers once had trouble finding qualified workers. That’s changed, and now tech jobs ...
Tech employers once had trouble finding qualified workers. That's changed, and now tech jobs in Seattle are filling up at a quicker rate as experienced candidates flock to the region. (Tiffany Von Arnim/Flickr)
(Tiffany Von Arnim/Flickr)

The Seattle area has become known as a major player in the tech industry, and that has translated into a wealth of jobs. But employment in the local tech scene is shifting and changing the dynamic between job seeker and employer.

“It is becoming a little bit easier today for companies in Seattle to hire,” said Indeed’s Chief Economist Tara Sinclair. “I think that suggests that Seattle is in a really good economic position.”

Related: Tech industry pushes Seattle into top 10 list of highest rent paying cities

Whereas the previous state of Seattle’s tech industry saw a limited supply of experienced and skilled workers coming in, the more current state has no such loss. Employers are finding that it’s easier to fill positions with workers coming in with desired experience. When a tech employer advertises for a job, that position is getting filled much quicker. That is a significant change in the relationship between job seeker and Seattle employer than in the past &#8212 when employers had to put more of an effort into finding qualified employees.

Indeed is one such tech-related company that has opened doors in the region &#8212 it has an engineering office in Seattle. Indeed has become one of the most popular online resources people visit in search for a job.

Indeed reports that three of the top five most in-demand roles in Seattle are in the tech industry, particularly software engineers. But Indeed also reports that since 2012, open tech positions posted online have been shrinking. Tech jobs that are advertised in Seattle are being filled fast.

In fact, Indeed’s data shows the percentage of available tech jobs in Seattle have steadily declined since 2012 &#8212 from 23.77 percent to 16.27 percent. But that doesn’t imply what many might initially conclude, Sinclair said. In short, available tech jobs are not disappearing in Seattle, they just aren’t posted as long.

“It’s not that there are fewer (jobs) available, but rather, there is more job-seeker interest in tech jobs in Seattle,” Sinclair said.

“We’ve seen for a very long time that there is a mismatch between employers and job seekers in the tech space,” she said. “We consistently hear from employers that they have tons of job openings and they are not finding qualified applicants, and sometimes not getting any applicants at all.”

That’s not the case anymore. And that shift in employee experience is influencing the job market in Seattle.

Why work in Seattle?

Tech jobs are providing one reason for people to consider moving to the Emerald City. But workers have a range of tech-hubs to choose from. So why Seattle?

As Sinclair pointed out, Seattle’s open positions are filling up fast because tech workers are targeting the city more now than ever as a place to move to and work. Part of that equation is that many tech companies such as Microsoft and Amazon are firmly established in the region. And though it may sound odd to locals, Seattle’s cost of living is much cheaper than its Californian counterparts.

Another tech-based company in the Seattle area, Redfin, offers a few insights about the Seattle attraction to tech workers. In a 2015 blog post, the real estate website’s CEO Glenn Kelman noted that Silicon Valley was once the hub where tech workers flocked. But while it once was “the place talented people move to; it’s the place those people are moving from.”

Redfin points out that in 2011, only one in seven people from the San Francisco Bay Area were searching for homes outside of that tech region. Today, that number has grown to one in four and showing no signs of slowing down. While the top searched job areas for these workers are in California &#8212 such as Sacramento or Southern California &#8212 the first area searched for outside the Golden State is Seattle.

While Silicon Valley once was the primary destination for tech workers, it’s now shipping them out complete with experience and skills &#8212 skills Seattle companies want.

Those experienced employees have a choice of where to take their skills. Indeed has noted that people from California-based tech hubs search for a small handful of cities when seeking their next career step. Among them (in order of popularity):

• San Jose

• San Francisco

• Seattle
• Austin

“It seems like the message a lot of people with engineering training are being told is that you start your career in the Bay Area. Then once you got a few years of experience in that area &#8212 in the start-up space or you worked for some of the big name companies there &#8212 you settle down and decide if you want to move to Seattle or Austin,” Sinclair said.

“After Austin there is a huge drop-off in job-seeker interest,” she said. “Those are really the four areas where people looking for tech jobs are concentrating their search.”

Sinclair said that, despite stereotypes of tech folks, Seattle has a huge draw with its access to the outdoors. Seattle is also a draw because the tech industry in the Northwest is built with a range of companies.

“The other thing that really seems to matter to this group is having multiple different companies to move between, and to have that opportunity to explore different career paths while still being in a settled area,” she said.

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‘Mismatch’ in Seattle’s job market is seeing a drastic shift