How IT Companies Are Weathering COVID-19 Employment Chaos

The colossal uncertainy in the economy isn't hitting tech firms as hard as other businesses.

OK then, this is where the U.S. economy is standing (or sinking) right now: More than 40 million U.S. workers have filed unemployment claims, stock markets are down by 20 percent or more, and GDP is forecast to decline by 42 percent for the second quarter of 2020. Kind of a grim situation, no? But in gloomy or dire times, we look for good news where we can find it.


I struck gold in that respect sifting through the press releases of tech industry association CompTIA, where I discovered this headline "Technology Companies Weathering the Pandemic Storm." The basic take is that 46 percent of firms recently polled by CompTIA are "generally upbeat and optimistic," and an equal percentage are "hanging in there."


Only 8 percent of tech firms self-reported finding themselves in "a very difficult situation." In these troubled times, that's about as good as it gets.


More Details on New and Existing Business


Digging a little deeper into business activity, CompTIA learned that 83 percent of tech firms handled new customer inquiries in April, up from 76 percent in March. Firms are also getting plenty of customer requests — 58 percent in fact — to "restructure contracts or payment terms."


When it come to business disruptions, the picture is a little more intense: 34 percent of firms are experiencing disruptions owing to shortages of finished products; 21 percent have experienced disruptions with key partners; 19 percent have undergone cancellation or postponement of financial arrangements with vendors or partners; 18 percent have dealt with shortages or components; and 11 percent with requests from investors or lenders to provide updated sustainability plans.


Overall, customer cancellations or postponements have hit 58 percent of tech firms, up by 15 percent since March. Thus, it's safe to say that while things are certainly not great, they're not exactly in the toilet, either.


The colossal uncertainy in the economy isn't hitting tech firms as hard as other businesses.

From an employment perspective, 40 percent of tech firms are hanging back on hiring, with a "wait and see" attitude. Only 13 percent have hired new staff, generally to accommodate rising demand for remote workers, cybersecurity professionals, and those whose jobs involve providing essential services (including IT).


In terms of workloads, here's how things shake out: 32 percent of tech firms have postponed interviewing and recruiting for new hires; 21 percent have reduced hours for full- or part-time workers; 18 percent have laid off or furloughed contractors; and 17 percent have laid off full- or part-time workers.


Again: this is not exactly good news, but it's much better, on average, than the impact on the overall workforce, and the impact on hard-hit sectors such as entertainment and hospitality, food service and drinking establishments, and anything touching on the travel industry.


Why Ed Concurs with CompTIA's Findings


As somebody who's been (mostly) working at home full-time since 1994 (26 years earlier this month), I totally get the work-from-home phenomenon, and the tendency for technology workers to persevere (albeit remotely) even in the face of the pandemic. Personally, I'm as busy as I like to be and have had a couple of weeks recently where I was even busier than that meeting deadlines.


Technology companies are my primary employers, for whom I write technical and marketing or product-positioning material. Demand for information does not seem to have been affected by the pandemic just yet. I do notice that some companies are paying more slowly than they did before the pandemic got going full blast (let's say that means looking back to January and February).


Ultimately, I think technology is what's allowing most firms (especially those in the technology biz) to keep chugging away even while other sectors have been squashed by the pandemic. We can't forget the old joke about the restaurant business though, because even technology needs customers to keep on keeping on.


The colossal uncertainy in the economy isn't hitting tech firms as hard as other businesses.

The joke goes like this: During a short break at a busy restaurant, one waitperson says to another: "Gee! This would be a great job if we didn't have any customers."


And yet, though all of us wish at certain times that we didn't have to deal with oafish, mean, or unhappy customers, we all understand that (paying) customers are the lifeblood of any business. Losing them is never a good thing, as so many people and businesses have been painfully reminded over the past three months.


We're lucky to work in technology right now, where things are not as bad as they are in other sectors. Somehow, my old mantra once again seems apt: "Hunker down. Stay put. Try not to worry too much." To that I can only add "Be well. Stay healthy."


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About the Author

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Tech Target, ComputerWorld and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.