RALEIGH — It almost seemed the way things used to be before the economy tanked: hundreds of job openings and more employers in hiring mode than could be accommodated under one roof.
More than 300 job seekers turned out Tuesday for the opportunity to connect with 28 North Carolina companies in a regional job fair featuring the state’s emerging technology economy. Organizers said the downtown Raleigh event was booked solid and several companies had to be turned away.
The relaxed mood at the Raleigh Convention Center stood in stark contrast to the cattle-call scenarios of past employment fairs, where hordes of jobless people dismally outnumbered scant available jobs. This time, nearly half those registered for the fair were gainfully employed and under no pressure, but casually playing the field and keeping their options open. These workers mostly stopped by the job fair early on their way to the office.
Some of the technology employers hiring were startups that have never experienced layoffs. Others are in expansion mode as they consolidate operations in North Carolina and develop new products. In all, the employers collectively represented 700-plus job openings, most in North Carolina.
“There’s a lot of companies in here that are actually growing,” said Keith King, a recently certified but still unemployed information technology professional from Holly Springs. “I’m getting out as many resumes as I can.”
The Tuesday morning event was part of the annual CED Tech Venture Conference, this year being held at the Raleigh Convention Center. The job summit itself was jointly sponsored by the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, N.C. Technology Association and Wake County Economic Development.
Companies looking for talent at the event included Channel Advisor, Allscripts, Bandwidth.com, BB&T, Credit Suisse, Bronto, WingSwept, UltraLinq, LexisNexis, SciQuest, SoftPro, Netsertive, Matrix and Red Hat. Some are pure technology companies while others depend on large IT departments.
Fidelity Investments, for example, employs 2,650 in the Triangle – many of those in IT. It has about 200 openings locally now.
SchoolDude.com, a 200-employee company in Cary that makes tracking and management software for educational institutions, has hired 50 people since January and projects a doubling of its staff over three years, said HR associate Jessica Lee.
Particularly noticeable was the absence of legacy technology companies in the Triangle that predate the social media and the app explosion.
“You don’t see the IBMs and the larger companies,” said Karl Myers, an unemployed data base administrator who came in from Massachusetts to visit his family and look for work. “I see hunger on both sides of the table: I’m hungry for a job and the companies are looking to attract.”
IT jobs market best since 2007
Despite years of outsourcing, off-shoring, downsizing and layoffs in the technology sector, the job market is booming for certain kinds of jobs.
The IT job market is up by 33 percent year-over-year, according to the N.C. Technology Association. The only time demand for employees has been higher was in the summer of 2007, just before the recession.
Nearly 5,000 IT jobs were posted statewide in July, the NCTA reported.
Still, there was no mistaking that the job fair played out in the long shadow of the recent recession. Like Myers, most of the job seekers were unemployed, self-employed, under-employed, partially employed or in some other state of career limbo.
Most of the employed job seekers did not want their names in the newspaper, for fear that their bosses would find out they were peddling their resumes around town.
But Kimberly Calhoun said she had no such hang-ups. Calhoun, who works for electronics testing-and-repair company ETR Solutions in Raleigh, said she’s been at her current job about two years. A computer engineer who has previously worked for Nortel Networks and Tekelec, she specializes in GPS, VoIP and wireless technologies.
“There’s a lot of marketing positions, which shows some growth,” Calhoun said of the job fair. “It looks like there’s some cash flow rolling around, so that’s exciting.”