Wages for skilled temporary employees have finally bottomed out in the US and are inching up, according to the Yoh Index of Technology Wages, which since 2001 has been benchmarking technical wages in information technology, life sciences, engineering, health care, aerospace and defense. The 4.31 percent increase in hourly wages between November and December was welcomed after declines in all three months in the third quarter of 2010.
Even hard-hit employment markets, such as California, are showing increased wage pressure. Wages for technically trained workers in New York, the Pacific Northwest, and Texas were higher during the fourth quarter. Certain sectors demonstrated similar new life.
Corporate infrastructure projects, application development, and telecom led the way in demand for skilled programmers, network engineers, and IT professionals.
While year-over-year numbers still showed decline, the uptick, which was strongest in December, was particularly encouraging due to its timing. December is typically a time of slackened demand for highly skilled workers due to seasonal lulls in the hiring of highly trained and paid technicians. According to Yoh, the momentum bodes well for the New Year, and the job prospects of millions of skilled workers, who have suffered from unemployment or settled for reduced wages during the recent recession.
“Real wage increases for skilled temporary employees serve as harbingers for the direction of the economy, especially early in the recovery cycle when businesses are still unwilling to hire full-time employees for highly paid, skilled positions,” stated Lori Schultz, president of Yoh. “Temporary workers blunt the risk of a still uncertain economy by providing just-in-time employees that can be more easily managed to balance indefinite customer demand.”
Wage capitulation, a phenomenon whereby employees accept lower-paying jobs today because of poorer future earnings prospects, continues to linger in the psyche of highly skilled workers. “Many technically skilled workers had never faced a labor market like that of the Great Recession, and will long remember its psychological impact,” she said. “These are workers who came of age when technical skills and education served as moats protecting jobs, income and lifestyle aspirations.”
“It’s not a revolution, rather an evolution of technology that is lifting demand and wages for technical workers,” remarks Schultz. “New bandwidth demands from cloud computing, mobile computing, and the advent of resource rich software, content and websites are forcing companies to invest in order for their employees to maintain competitiveness.”
At the same time, the mainstreaming of e-commerce at a time of returning consumer confidence is generating an array of IT infrastructure projects, the kind that can be delineated and ascribed to highly skilled temporary workers.
On the medical and life science side of the equation, new healthcare regulation continues to dampen activity due to uncertainty in the marketplace. “The focus is still unclear and long-term decision making is up in the air,” said Schultz.