Los Angeles Job Barometer:
I just got off the phone with "A." who has been working as a corporate IT placement recruiter for over 8 years with one of the most successful privately held recruitment and placement agencies in Los Angeles. This agency consistently shows up in the LA Business Magazine top 25 recruitment firms for the area. We chat on an infrequent basis, usually prompted by her looking for a particular talent or my looking for projects.
This particular conversation was very enlightning. "A" explained that several of the large companies in the Los Angeles Metropolitan area have ordered hiring freezes, and in the case of Walt Disney Co. have had several rounds of layoffs. I suppose a company doesn't show up on the Nightly News when it lays off 100 people at a time over several months as opposed to popping 2000 in one shot. (I don't know the exact number laid off at Disney this is just a hypothetical number)
To sum up the chat, "A" hasn't been able to place anybody for quite some time. In addition it became apparent that many companies are turning away agencies, and are no longer willing to pay placement fees. I wonder if the same is true for job boards. Dice is down to about 29,500, thats about the lowest I've ever seen, other borads like Monster have a handful of VB jobs most of which were placed by agencies and are duplicate submissions for the same opening. There are other signals.The consolidation of "Professional Contractor" magazine with three others into a single, anemic, publication is pretty much a dead giveaway for the climate.
The barometer for the LA market is abut as low as I could paint it. The Internet bubble burst which led to many companies simply dissappearing. The market was flooded with script kiddies who depressed the rates for regular contractors and also quickly filled many open positions. We are now at a level of saturation that combined with a freeze on new projects makes one think that Siberia might have a better climate for software development projects.
"A" mentioned the seemingly unrelenting optimism by many people in the "bodyshop" supply chain, always saying "it can't get any worse, it'll have to pick up next quarter " followed by "it'll have to pick up by fall" which of course turned into "it'll have to pick up by next year.." My own feeling is that the market has to have a severe shake-out before it can get better.
All the so called programmers who took a 6 week crash course in Visual Basic have to be removed from the equation, and companies have to return to a level of sanity before we see an uptick here. Typically a hiring freeze is a good thing for consultants like myself, however, in this case we seem to witness a freeze on a lot of new project development as well. Almost a backlash to the frenzied "upgrade or die" attitude of the '90's Perhaps many people are just not willing to get on that crazy bandwagon again quite so soon.
Let's hope the cycle ends soon.