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Was there a tech-hiring bubble? job postings data suggest so

We recently discussed Information industry jobs data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: That post showed that layoffs in Information were elevated relative to layoffs for non-farm employment overall. Today we examine job postings data from to answer a related question: How have the help wanted ads in the US tech industry compared with the rest of the labor market?

The FRED graph above taps into a recently expanded dataset from to compare changes in the level of job postings for the tech industry with changes in the level for all job postings. The black dashed line shows the indexed trend of all job postings; the red line shows the trend of postings in information technology operations and helpdesk positions; and the blue line shows the trend in software development job postings. These daily data are reported as an index with a value of 100 on February 1, 2020, and represent changes in the level of postings relative to that date.

The graph shows that the overall level of job postings declined during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels 12 months later. Soon after, and while help wanted ads for IT operations and helpdesk staffing remained depressed, the level of job postings in software development started to quickly outpace the rising national trend.

At their peak in late February 2022, help wanted ads for designing computer applications or programs more than doubled their February 2020 level. In contrast, IT operations and helpdesk staffing roughly kept up with the national trend. Over the past year, the decline in software development job postings has been swift and, again, has outpaced the gradual decline in overall job postings.

Finally, other datasets from the same source show similar ups and downs in other countries around the world (see here and here). So, although the data from is not as comprehensive as the BLS data, they suggest a large-scale cycle in tech industry employment is over.

How this graph was created: Search FRED for “Software Development Job Postings on Indeed in the United States.” Next, click the “Edit Graph” button, select “Add Line,” and search for “IT Operations and Helpdesk Job Postings on Indeed in the United States.” Repeat the last step to add “Job Postings on Indeed in the United States.” Use the “Format” tab to change the lines style and color.

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.

The sticky price consumer price index

An alternative measure of core inflation from the Atlanta Fed

The consumer price index (CPI) is calculated by looking at the cost of a market basket of consumer goods and services purchased by an average urban consumer. During the past two years, overall CPI inflation has increased and decreased, in part because of supply and demand shocks to the prices of individual goods and services, such as eggs and shelter. These specific shocks make it difficult to identify trends in broad inflation. But alternative price indexes can help measure the “core” of inflation.

The FRED graph above shows the all-items CPI inflation rate (dashed red line), reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, plus two special aggregations of consumer prices:

  • The “all items less food and energy” CPI inflation (green line) is also reported by the BLS; it excludes the prices of food and energy, two components of the all-items CPI that are frequently the most volatile.
  • The “sticky price” CPI inflation (blue line) is reported by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, which sorts the components of the all-items CPI and categorizes them as either “flexible” or “sticky” (slow to change).

Between January 2013 and January 2023, both of these special aggregations of consumer prices have signaled very similar core inflation rates; but their lockstep movement broke down during the COVID-19-induced recession in 2020. Since then, “all items less food and energy” CPI inflation has been noticeably more volatile than “sticky price” CPI inflation. This dynamic suggests a broader range of price categories has experienced notable and unexpected changes.

Stick to the FRED Blog and learn more about core inflation. A post on the topic was recently referenced in the Federal Register, the daily journal of the United States government, as part of a proposed rule.

How this graph was created: Search FRED for “Sticky Price Consumer Price Index.” Next, click the “Edit Graph” button, select the “Add Line,” and search for “Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers: All Items in U.S. City Average.” Next, select the “Line 2” tab and use the “Units” dropdown menu to select “Percent Change from Year Ago.” Repeat the “Add Line” step to add the “Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers: All Items Less Food and Energy in U.S. City Average” series to the graph and calculate their year-over-year percent growth rate.

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.

Are tech layoffs outpacing layoffs overall?

JOLTS data pick up elevated layoff levels for the tech-heavy Information industry

Layoffs in the technology sector dominated the news cycle in the second half of 2022, and the trend seems to be continuing into 2023: In January, Google and Microsoft announced another 12,000 and 10,000 layoffs, respectively. So, are these layoffs in or out of proportion with the labor market in general?

FRED has employment data specific to the Information industry. While this industry doesn’t exclusively represent the tech sector, it does include sectors where computer programmers, computer support specialists, computer systems analysts, and software developers are likely to work. These sub-industries are publishing, internet broadcasting, telecommunications, and—most relevant for this post—data processing, hosting, and related services.

The FRED graph above shows layoff levels for workers in the Information industry (in red) and for all nonfarm workers (in blue), indexed to 100 in April 2022. In that month, layoffs were at “normal” levels for both industries. This transformation enables us to see whether layoffs in Information have been increasing and, if so, whether they’ve increased more sharply relative to layoffs overall.

The graph shows that Information layoffs and layoffs overall had increased by similar percentages in May. But Information layoffs have gone up by more since then and remain more elevated. This pattern became more pronounced at the end of 2022: The last available month of data is December 2022, when Information layoffs were up by 65.5% compared with an increase of 26% for layoffs overall. Recent layoff announcements have continued into 2023, so we’ll look at the January 2023 data to compare with 2022 data.

How this graph was created: Search FRED for “Layoffs and Discharges: Total Nonfarm” and select “Monthly, Level in Thousands, Not Seasonally Adjusted” from the options. Next, click the “Edit Graph” button and use the “Add Line” tab to add “Layoffs and Discharges: Information.” Select “Edit Line 1” and change “Units” to “Index (Scale value to 100 for chosen date).” Next, select “2022-04-01” as the date to equal 100 for your custom index and “Copy to all.” Finally, enter “2022-04-01” to “2022-12-01” above the figure on the right to adjust the time period.

Suggested by Victoria Gregory and Elizabeth Harding.

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