From January to April, Chicago added 2,600 tech job postings, compared with a loss of 3,000 jobs in the year-earlier period, according to Dice.
The tech occupations most in demand are software developer, project manager, network engineer and systems engineer. Product managers are also highly sought after, as they’re being recruited to coordinate the delivery of new services. The fastest-growing career is a data warehouse developer, which saw a 52 percent month-over-month increase from February to March.
In Chicago, the professional-level jobs most in demand are software developer, network security professional and cloud engineer, says Marisa Ellis, regional vice president in Chicago at staffing agency Robert Half.
Chicago—along with New York and San Francisco—is also seeking workplace diversity experts to help their organizations reach inclusion and diversity goals, LinkedIn says, citing a 90 percent increase in these positions (pay $73,000 to $97,000) since 2019.
The major issue: Employers can’t find the qualified candidates they need. “Their biggest challenges are finding candidates with the right skills and hiring quickly enough,” Ellis says. “Companies are going above and beyond to hire the best talent by offering signing bonuses, more flexible work schedules and broadening their search geographically.”
Chicago employers today are seeking workers with solid soft skills—interpersonal skills that help in a social environment—with just 10 percent of employers willing to overlook these qualifications when recruiting for open roles.
For example, Ellis says, an employee needs strong interpersonal skills in today’s highly collaborative work environment; that is, problem-solving chops and critical thinking to drive innovation. Developing leadership skills may be an indicator of entrepreneurial spirit and inquisitiveness—and all these qualities are in demand.
Despite the fierce competitiveness of finding the ideal candidate, however, today’s labor market is in many ways similar to that of 2019, Zhao says. Wage increases and raises are the most straightforward ways to attract new workers, but employers should also consider other creative ways to attract the attention of job seekers.
“In a fast-moving, high-turnover labor market, it may be difficult to compete on pay alone,” Zhao says. “Attracting and retaining workers requires a concerted effort by employers to offer competitive pay on top of an appealing workplace and growth opportunities.”
Offering work-from-home options—popular after many workers got used to working outside of an office during the pandemic—flexible scheduling, child care subsidies and other benefits to make balancing work and life easier is more important than ever, Zhao says.
Tight labor markets are also a clarion call for employers to re-evaluate their candidate pools. Offering on-the-job training or internal transfers can expand talent pools while also rewarding high-potential employees, Zhao says. Loosening degree or experience requirements or looking at remote workers can also help expand the pool of available candidates.
Looking ahead to the near future in Chicago, Ellis says we can expect demand for professionals in the areas of customer-service support, call-center representatives, legal associates, open-enrollment professionals and tax accountants.
“Generally, contract professionals are hired toward the end of the year to support seasonal needs in retail and distribution, open enrollment and end-of-year budgeting,” she says.
It’s still unlikely that the labor shortages will halt anytime soon—and these may even become our new normal, Zhao says, adding that this is why you’re seeing large employers like Walmart, McDonald’s and Chipotle committing to permanent wage increases. “They perceive long-term structural challenges in hiring and retaining workers,” Zhao says.
Similarly, the health care system has been strained by the pandemic, but on top of that, the aging American population will increase demand for health care even after the pandemic is over, he says.
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