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Behind the White House's claim of 545,000 unfilled IT jobs

Patrick Thibodeau | March 16, 2015
Earlier this week, the White House announced a plan to use $100 million in H-1B fees to help train people for technology jobs. To make its case for this new program, it said there were 545,000 "unfilled jobs" in information technology.

Salzman believes the deduplication can be a challenge with job ads. In Salzman's own research, he has run across jobs that are posted in multiple cities that appear as if they are specific to each of those cities. The recruiters are doing this to keep prospects from automatically rejecting the job because of location, he said.

Restuccia believes their data is getting independent verification from its use. He said the White House's Council of Economic Advisors vetted its data before using it, and groups such as the Brookings Institution have used it their data to discover, in a report, that job openings for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) jobs take longer to fill than do openings in other fields.

Burning Glass has been in business since 1999, and its customers will use its data in many ways, including examining specific hiring trends, recruiting, what skills are hard to fill and competitive intelligence. Salzman says the most recent BLS data shows about 120,000 new hires in computer occupations, representing people being replaced due to retirement, for instance, as well as expansion.

Although the White House doesn't raise the issue of temporary H-1B workers in its training push, the use of the half-million plus job openings in its announcement creates a data point for supporters of raising the H-1B cap. But Salzman argues — something he did along with other researchers in an Economic Policy Institute paper — that the U.S. has a sufficient supply of STEM workers, and that the demand for guest workers isn't in large part due to unmet demand but instead meant to replace the existing supply or existing workforce.

Wage trends are also indicator of demand, and last April NACE reported that that the mean starting salary for computer science bachelor's degree graduates in 2014 was $67,300. The organization recently predicted that this year's starting salary will average $61,287, a 9% drop, wrote Norm Matloff, a professor of computer science at the University of California-Davis who has long disputed the idea that there's a technical talent shortage.

NACE has "shown in the past few years that computer science graduate salaries have basically been flat — up 2% one year, down 3% the next," wrote Matloff on his blog. "But the current figures show the biggest one-year change I can ever recall seeing — and it is downward," he said.


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