"Washington is the hottest technology market in the nation right now," with the federal government recruiting heavily for national defense and homeland security IT projects, said Scot Melland, president and CEO of Dice, based in New York.
But New York has risen to the top of the job-posting list because its diverse IT job market is being led by the financial services industry, which is recovering from the dual blows of an economic recession and the 9/11 attacks, Melland said.
The government is recruiting to staff multiyear, multibillion-dollar projects that require technical professionals with a range of skills, including experience with Java and C language development skills as well as with the Unix and Windows operating systems, Melland said.
"If you have an active security clearance as a tech professional, you can almost write your own ticket," he said, due to the shortage of people with this qualification.
In fact, government and defense industry recruiters "literally cannot find enough people to fill open positions," causing two-year delays in some defense and aerospace projects, he said.
Overall, the demand for technology jobs in 2004 "is substantially better this year than it was a year ago," Melland said, with job listings more than double what they were in 2003.
Dice reported in July that job postings seeking Linux experience totaled 2,243 since June 2003, a 190 percent increase. This trend is likely to continue into the foreseeable future. "I would make sure I had some open-source credentials if I were a young software-development professional," Melland said.
Another trend is that recruiters are placing less emphasis on technical certifications in specific technologies compared with hands-on experience. "These days, real-world experience is in demand," not just a sound education, he said.
Washington and New York have replaced Silicon Valley and Boston as the perennial tech recruiting leaders since the dot-com bubble burst in 2000. As of July, Silicon Valley was in third place. Boston has dropped to eighth place. Today, Los Angeles is in fourth place, followed by Chicago and Dallas.
The technology recovery is unusual because it is being led this time by job growth on the East Coast rather than on the West Coast, as had been the case for most of the decade before the 2001 recession, Melland said.
But nearly all areas are showing improvement. Tech recruiting is up 65 percent in Silicon Valley, up 85 percent in Boston and up nearly 100 percent in Seattle so far in 2004, according to Melland. The recovery has been has been slower in those areas compared with New York and Washington, but it has been gaining momentum, he said.
But another high-tech center, Austin, Texas, has yet to show a significant recovery, Melland observed.