It Starts: Hiring Falls in San Francisco Bay Area, Says LinkedIn

Tech skills are suddenly “abundant” in San Francisco & Silicon Valley

Hiring dropped 4.1% in May year-over-year in the Bay Area, which includes Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and other cities, according to LinkedIn’s new Workforce Report. This contrasted with the US overall, where hiring rose 2.4%, “the strongest month for hiring since June 2015,” as the report put it.

On a seasonally-adjusted basis – this irons out large seasonal variations, such as the drop-off in December due to the holidays or the surge over the summer due to seasonal work and student internships – hiring plunged 11.1% in May from April.

This measure of hiring activity is based on the 138 million workers in the US who have profiles on LinkedIn. That would be 86% of what is deemed to be the “civilian labor force” of 160 million people and about 42% of the total US population.

So not everyone is part of this sample. It’s a sample of people interested in other jobs and in making themselves visible to recruiters and companies. The data may be skewed in that direction and away from people who are not looking or who have skills that are not very marketable on LinkedIn.

But it’s a huge sample, and May’s 4.1% year-over-year drop in hiring in the Bay Area – so this is not a drop in employment, but a drop in hiring activity – is significant.

There’s more. The report includes a section on the “skills gap” – the mismatch between the skills employers need (demand for skills) and the skills workers have (supply of skills). The report explains:

There is an abundance of skills when supply exceeds demand. There is a scarcity of skills when demand exceeds supply. A city with a scarcity of skills needs more workers with certain skills, while a city with an abundance of skills has too many workers with certain skills.

And the Bay Area has the largest mismatch of skills of any other area in the report (ahead of Washington DC, Austin, and Los Angeles).

Below are the types of skills that are relatively “abundant” and those that are relatively “scarce” – with some surprising entries:

The “most abundant” skills in the Bay Area:

  1. Perl, Python, and Ruby programming skills
  2. Integrated Circuit Design
  3. Cloud and Distributed Computing
  4. Mobile Development
  5. Software Development
  6. C and C++ programming skills
  7. Java Development
  8. Scripting Languages
  9. Computer Network and Network Administration
  10. Web Programming.

We used to hear a lot about the skills shortage for tech jobs in the Bay Area, and how companies had to bring in people in large numbers and at great expense from across the country and from other parts of the world, but that has apparently petered out (more data on that in a moment).

LinkedIn data also shows that this level of “abundance” has been increasing consistently since February 2016. So based on this data, February 2016 might have been the peak in tech job growth in the Bay Area.

And here’s the other end of the spectrum, the “scarce” skills in the Bay Area. Note that many workers such as construction workers, drivers, and the like, who don’t often try to find jobs via a profile on LinkedIn, are not adequately represented in this list below.

The “most scarce” skills in the Bay Area:

  1. Healthcare Management
  2. Sales
  3. Education and Teaching
  4. Purchasing and Contract Negotiations
  5. Microsoft Windows Systems
  6. Retail Store Operations
  7. Marketing Event Management
  8. IT Infrastructure and System Management
  9. Nursing
  10. Crime Prevention and Security Law.

So if young teachers, retail managers, and nurses cannot afford to live in the Bay Area – mostly due to ludicrous housing costs – without a long and costly commute, they’re going to go where they can afford to live. For example, San Francisco and other cities in the Bay Area have been grappling with an acute teacher shortage. This has all become part of the “Housing Crisis” where Housing Bubble 2 is pushing out the middle class.

While the Bay Area pulled in highly paid tech workers over the past years, it has pushed out workers in professions that pay less. Now with employment growth in tech slowing down, that has led to an “abundance” of tech skills and a “scarcity” of many other skills.

A week ago, I postulated how the housing bubble in San Francisco has started to deflate with an audible hiss. I added various charts, including the following two on the employment situation, and LinkedIn has now confirmed their essence from another angle. The first chart, based on data from the Employment Development Department, shows how growth of both the labor force and employment in San Francisco is fizzling:

The labor force in April dropped to the lowest level since June 2016 and is up only 4,500 people from April last year.

Employment has been flat in 2017 and is up only 7,000 jobs year-over-year. I say “only” because year-over-year employment gains have crashed since the heady days of 2014, following the hype of the Twitter IPO in late 2013:

So employment gains are fading in San Francisco. LinkedIn’s report confirms for the whole Bay Area from a different angle that hiring activity for skills posted on LinkedIn is falling. That the once booming tech-job market in the Bay Area is cooling off will have broader impact, as it always does here. The signs and numbers are already lining up. Read… Will these 2 Forces Crush San Francisco’s Housing Bubble?

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  116 comments for “It Starts: Hiring Falls in San Francisco Bay Area, Says LinkedIn

  1. John Ryskamp says:

    Ha ha! Didn’t someone just the other day on this site say I didn’t know what I was talking about? Like hell I don’t. I do H1Bs. Know what? H transfers have collapsed, which means no one is hiring. The full restaurants? Prices are collapsing and happy hours every day. These UTTERLY useless people are moving back to Akron or Atlanta or whatever hole they came from.

    And all that hot money? That is gone too. Now you can’t get more rounds of fund ing, even if you offer your whole useless business. Bay Area high tech is one big Ask Jeeves. Remember, idiots?

    And the Bay Area, along with Austin, was the only “growth” area in this stinking country! What comes next? Well, not Bain Capital. More like, Putin Capital.

    Watch the supply chain start to collapse. Factoring is disappearing here. This means disaster, if you know anything about on the ground business. Goodbye America.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      There is nothing “collapsing” in the Bay Area at the moment. Job growth is flattening out. Rents are coming down in some places like SF and Oakland from ludicrously high levels, but 10% or 15% from the peak is not a “collapse.” But they’re still going up in other places. Commercial RE is hanging on by its teeth. The home-price trajectory is flattening out and declining in some places, but not by much, and is not “collapsing” in any visible sense. Good restaurants are still packed and hard to get into though there is a restaurant glut in SF (now over 7,000 restaurants, delis, and cafés in a city with 850,000 people) and a shakeout due to the glut has been going on for a while.

      So the economy is still hopping from our local point of view, but there are signs that we’re at an inflection point or past the inflection point … but not a “collapse.”

      This is not to say that there might not be a collapse in various metrics down the road. Boom and bust have defined SF since the Gold Rush days.

      • akiddy111 says:

        Great comment. Very measured and carefully delivered.

        I live within walking distance of Bellevue, WA. They just completed the new building in downtown. It looks impressive. I’m watching activity like a hawk.

        The recently closed Pier 1 Imports store has been for lease since last summer.

        The recently closed Sports Authority store has been for lease since January.

        These are prime locations on Bellevue Way and within a 3 minute walk to Bellevue Square Mall. I find it difficult to think that this would have been the case 2 or 3 years ago. Some nervousness creeping in ? Maybe.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, we were driving back from a hike. It was around 6 PM. We really wanted to have a nice dinner, and I was aching for a good beer. On a whim, my far better half called our favorite tapas place that we hadn’t been able to get a reservation in unless we called like 5 days ahead of time. This place is heavily frequented by millennials.

          Turns out, they had two spots at 8:30 PM at the bar, which was totally perfect for us … and it’s peak dinner time in SF.

          The place did fill up by 8:45 PM. But the fact that we were able to get in made me wonder.

          This might have many causes, including Memorial Day weekend when locals evaporate, or just a cancellation. Nevertheless, I’ll keep my eyes out for more signs like this.

      • alex in san jose says:

        There’s an upper crust in the Bay Area that’s doing fine. They’re filling up the restaurants. They’re keeping businesses like “Therapy” going and the expensive clothing and shoe stores.

        The average person is hanging on and looking very nervous.

        There’s a huge “third world” here that I’m just perched on the edge of; people with no internet, no phones, often nothing that would be considered legal human habitation. I make just a hair under $13k a year and I’m considered rich by these people. Huge, huge, numbers of them out begging, collecting scrap metal, etc. People who would have had jobs 20 years ago and back then, they did. Lots of electronics techs, small business owners, etc. around here now homeless, living in a van or living in a tent or something.

        Yeah there are jobs here but you have to know someone. I knew the guy I work for long before he hired me. He has his day job because he knew the guy he worked for for years. One of his sons has a job because his employer, as a kid, played around and learned about computers in my boss’s house. You have to know people.

        So it’s much more of a “2nd world” economy with a large swathe of 3rd, than the way the area was in the 1960s.

        • Meme Imfurst says:

          I lived in S.F. in the late 1960’s working at the Pacific Coast Stock Exchange. I could barely make ends meet then…tons of people wanting a job, but few jobs and poor pay for the work you did or for the education/experience you had. Rents took 60% of my pay check and with that I had two other room mates splitting the rent at Union and Larkin. If you weren’t a broker with your feet up on the desk, you couldn’t make it. Same story then…. business and Politians yakking about ‘affordable housing’ , and see…nothing changes after 47 years, nothing. And, it won’t. If you ain’t corporate, you are little people.

          The smartest think I even did was say goodbye to San Francisco.

        • Valuationguy says:

          If you are looking for a Bay area collapse indication….you need to first look to the suburbs (specifically those area EAST of the bridges. That is where the (upper) middle class….which depend on the tech jobs in San Fran proper…commute from…and where THEY spend their money on wining and dining.

          The more affluent….who can actually afford to live in San Fran (or more properly west of the bridges) are going to the LAST indications that a collapse is ALREADY underway. The middle class has been actively pushed out of San Fran proper for years.

        • Slyynnns says:

          Or you could look for the HIRING signs I see around the area in business windows. You don’t need to know someone to get A job. it helps to know someone to get a GOOD job.

      • IP executive says:

        From my small view of the Bay Area market I would say that things are about to go pop…. my example is quite simple. I packed up the family and moved out of Cupertino last year to Texas. Our home, which we bought in 1998 was put on the market. Yes, it is lavish….on six acreas with stables, pool, and 20 car garage…and a view from the back hills over downtown Cupertino and Apples new starship. Well, a year later and four price cuts still no buyers. The bank declined to offer mortgages to two potential buyers as they want 40% down….as the mortgage broker told me….we feel like the levee is about to break open on this market…lie feels like 2007 all over again. I have dropped the price from the original by 35% and the banks still think there is more downside….and with all the supposed CASH flying around the valley…well it’s all tied up in stocks and is not making it to an all cash offer…

        • J Bank says:

          Well yeah. As you can see by your own example, exceptionally high priced properties are prone to bigger swings since there is a limited pool of buyers. Of course the bank wants a larger down payment to protect them should they need to foreclose.

      • d says:

        Do you have employed HB1 # and new HB1 # in Tech??

        Surely the tech companies must run into HB1 justification issues at some point.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          I just read that H-1B use by the Indian outsourcing companies, which had been the biggest users, started to decline last year after they were catching so much heat from their abuses that had become public, some of which I covered here. But I don’t know how that would impact these LinkedIn numbers.

        • d says:

          HB1’s already in country contribute to further American unemployment/Likden listings, in a slow down.

          Australian companies chase foreign workers away when their country slows down, The US companies seem to keep them and try to get more.

          Australian companies defiantly have a much higher degree of national loyalty. Than American ones seem to.

    • Rates says:

      H1B transfers are “collapsing” because Trump signed an order earlier this year (active starting April 3rd) to suspend all premium processing:

      This is actually Trump’s “gift” to the tech sector i.e. it prevents salaries from rising.

      This also probably explains why hiring is “declining”.

      So no, this latest data point is probably meaningless because there’s a pent up demand for 6 months down the line when transfers will be exploding again.

      Sorry guys. No bad news here. Nothing starting. Heck with the latest London activity, stock market will be way up next week.

      • akiddy111 says:

        Pent up demand ? We’ll see. Snap chat has been the only relevant tech IPO in the last 18 months. Back in 1999, there were tech IPO’s galore.
        Comparatively speaking, there appeared to be a lot less tech work Visas being issued back then.

      • Sreeni says:

        Premium processing is an issue only if one believes that the petition has chance of getting rejected. You can join new employer after getting receipt of transfer petition. No need to wait for approval.

      • RepubAnon says:

        Between the long commutes and crazy property values, I’d guess that companies are opening satellite offices outside the SF Bay Area. Easy enough to do these days while still keeping a glamorous address for the corporate offices. Could explain why rents in the cheaper markets keep rising, too.

  2. David Calder says:

    Still waiting for the bubble to blow in Seattle. I’m afraid that by the time it does there won’t be anything recognizable to anyone who has been here longer than two years. last count I took was 61 cranes operating and more needed. If this mess actually does blowup, the hangover will last a decades.

    • George says:

      I live in the heart of the once great Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. Outside of the 800K plus smokestack town homes that sit on a lot where a nice craftsman house once occupied there are many mixed use buildings with lower storefronts. Several of these have been vacant since coming online and this is going on three years. Yet the building continues. You are right, David. I don’t recognize my neighborhood anymore and the quality of people moving in is, lets say, depressing. This will end badly. I am scoping out land in the N Cascade foothills to prepare for the impending doom. Thank you Wolf for a solid daily shot of reality.

      • Marty says:

        Could be the lack of sun that’s depressing. Maybe you should move. ;-)

      • CrazyCooter says:

        If you are in the construction business – you build because someone pays you to build (or you can borrow the money via a construction LLC, investors, or equivalent and are properly firewalled from losses).

        This stops when credit (free money looking for a grave) isn’t available anymore.

        When? Who knows.



      • Valuationguy says:

        I moved to Seattle in the late 90’s and can tell you that the character of Seattle is ALWAYS changing (at least since the early 80’s). I was a rare East coast transplant (but spent 18 years in Seattle there because I loved it…I only moved due to lack of jobs in my career choice)….but even back then after just one year….we were always complaining about the CALIFORNIANs moving up to Seattle to escape the craziness in CA….and effectively importing the CA craze to Seattle. (Only recently…past 6-8 years have the same complaints been started to made about Portland’ers….who have their own unique culture as well.)

        Somewhat surprisingly….Seattle is ALWAYS more welcoming of Asian immigrants (than U.S. ‘immigrants’). Generally, they seem/are/were more willing to adapt to the local environment….than actual Americans outside the Pacific Northwest….who want to actively change the Seattle culture (despite consciously fleeing the culture (whether it be CA or the Eastern establishment) they are unconsciously importing to Seattle)).

        Sad in a way….but given the ample outdoors close by Seattle (one of the many attractions of the area)….most are willing to overlook the cultural influx until its too late to recapture the ‘heyday’.

    • Joe says:

      Still Seattle ( and eastside) bubble growing crazy .. all the houses selling minimum 300K+ in 2 years.. Don’t know its real value are fake value .

  3. Kevin says:

    I love how obvious the three humps of QE are in the second chart. It was all fake from the start.

    • Frederick says:

      Exactly Kevin it sure is Im wondering how under the table workers factor into these labor statistics and how illegals self deporting could skew the numbers when they are replaced by legal citizens working on the books It sure seems a lot of the economy flies under the radar When I was working in the Hamptons my ex boss had 12 Latino kids working for cash No SS numbers and totally unreported so it’s got to be a large factor

  4. David says:

    This measure of hiring activity is based on the 138 million workers in the US who have profiles on LinkedIn. That would be 86% of what is deemed to be the “civilian labor force” of 160 million people and about 42% of the total US population.

    I cannot believe 86% of the labor force is on LinkedIn. Makes no sense. Professionals maybe – but not tradespeople and laborers (the help at the local pizza shop, the supermarket non-management staff, etc.).

    • Wolf Richter says:

      There are people on LinkedIn that are not deemed in the civilian labor force, including retirees, students, active military personnel, and the like.

      • Jim Graham says:

        I suspect that LinkedIn has a bloated number of “members” in their “count” that skew the numbers way beyond reality.

        I have a friend that has AT LEAST 9 accounts on LinkedIn. He claims he needs them all. You have to wonder how many others are doing the same.

        I on the other hand have ZERO accounts on LinkedIn – along with zero Twiting Facebooking etc.

        • R2D2 says:

          I’ve written a program that automatically logs into my LinkedIn accounts and sends as many connect requests as I want. I don’t abuse it, but if I can do it, thousands of others around the world can dot it as well. Probably at least 40% of LinkedIn accounts are fake accounts.

        • R2D2 says:

          By the way, on one account, I had 10000 connections after 2 months :).

        • Ping Pong says:

          That’s simply awesome Jim Graham! I wish more people would follow that lead.

      • Randolf says:

        Ive got 3 accounts on Linkedin. Couldn’t delete ’em. There they sit.

    • Bee says:

      This was my thought the whole reading also—86% of American workers use LinkedIn?! Doubt it! Thus: who is behind LinkedIn?, who owns them?, etc.

    • Old Engineer says:

      Linked in now requires everyone who wants to view a profile to register. So that is probably where the 138 million comes from, a total of people who have profiles on Linked-In and people who have registered just to view profiles. And some of these latter are probably repetitious.

      • Bee says:

        Good point. There’s no way 86% use the site. That is something I have done before for other things also—create a phony account just to read content or what have you.
        This way they look more powerful and valuable. 86%, no way.

  5. Willy2 says:

    – Any news/updates on the amount of bankruptcies here in the US ? Wolfstreet had the latest figures for March but now we’re one month deeper into 2017.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      The new figures should come out next week. If they’re interesting, I’ll write about it. I only cover that topic a few times a year. They’re very volatile on a monthly basis, so it’s nice to let them do their thing for a while and write about the trend, rather than the monthly ups and downs.

      • broblawsky says:

        Maybe use a rolling average? That’s what dshort does for volatile figures.

        • Variance Doc says:

          You could also use the median (robust measure of central tendency) and the absolute median deviation aka MAD (robust measure of variability).

          There are also regression methods based on these concepts too.

          You can also use smoothing splines (I believe they are in excel too).

          That way, you don’t have a lag effect of moving averages

  6. Colin says:

    I’m not familiar with one person who has a profile on LinkedIn. Regardless of the real number of hiring that takes place(I expect it’s mostly made up), I wish we’d hear more about the numbers that indicate wealth. The birth rate shows people have confidence in the future. How much savings people have is important. The number of 18-34 year olds living with their parents has some importance for one large age group. All of these would indicate Americans are doing very poorly and should be considered far more important than any hiring numbers they throw out there.

    • Coaster Noster says:

      If you’re not on Linked-In, any adviser to someone looking for a job (even sub-$20/hr jobs) will tell them to get a Linked-In profile. HR people will even tell candidates that they will be checking their profile, and if they don’t have a Linked-In profile, well….easy discard of that applicant’s resume. A very high number of HR hiring managers use Linked-In in the Bay Area, for the last five or more years.
      The phenomenon of thirty-year-olds living with their parents in the Bay Area is directly related to the programming demands of the Bay Area, and the intense demand for housing. Miserable 90-year-old two-bedroom bungalows within fifteen miles of downtown SF get multiple offers of $800k, while 100 miles to the east, in Merced, a three-bedroom house goes for $185k (just talked to a 30-yr-old Berkeley native who gave up on the Bay Area and bought said house in Merced). Also sold some of my “storage treasures” to a fellow who works construction nationwide. He said, “They’re giving it away in the Midwest. I just bought a 10,000 sq foot warehouse in Missouri, for $10,000.” So to simply say, “Americans…this…” or “Thirty-somethings…that..” ignores how ‘lumpy’ the demographics, the real estate, the job markets, are in the USA. New Yorker ran a recent article on heroin deaths in West Virginia…unlike anything I’ve heard or seen in California.

      • T.J., not TJ says:

        That wouldn’t be a safe home, or in a safe neighborhood. 3000 sqft, $300,000. $100/ft. rule of thumb.

    • Bobber says:

      I know from direct experience that about 90% of corporate employees are on LinkedIn. I work for a very large company. I can’t think of anyone in my network that is not on LinkedIn. Most people use it as a platform to be seen in case a recruiter comes calling, but some people use it as a broader networking platform to keep in touch with former co-workers by sending them messages from time to time.

      • Jason says:

        “according to LinkedIn’s new Workforce Report.”

        I’m not sure when a corporate report used in a pro-forma earnings statement became gospel to anyone. The report is likely a PR stunt or just plain biased (aren’t the official BLS numbers biased??). Since only Linked In has access to the full stats I supposed we’ll never know.

        I doubt 90% of working people are on linked in. Some of the hysterical ‘you’ll never get a job without a linked in profile’ posts I’m reading here don’t in any way shape or form correspond to my experiences (biotech).

        Linked in seems to cater to low brow food services type jobs that have high turnover -filling that 3am shift at the local diner.

        While I’d say 50% of the people I know have used linked in (as a social network thing, or just to try it out), I know of absolutely no one who has gotten a job using it. I’ve gotten all my job offers without using linked in. Don’t regret it, nor will I sell my history to Microsoft.

        Remember when it’s free, you’re the product.

    • alex in san jose says:

      Colin – the only guy I know who’s on LinkedIn is such a loser that I’m convinced it would be poison to put him as a reference on a job app., or, well, anything. He pushed me to go onto LinkedIn so much that I’m very much against even visiting the site, and haven’t.

      • Meme Imfurst says:

        Is ANY information on there even validated?

        I know some HR guys ( in their late 20’s and mid thirties) who use…facebook… to find (get this) honest qualified help. I have asked, ‘do you do any background checks on these hires?_. No I am told, if it is on facebook it is reliable.

        God help us.

  7. DK says:

    I travel the southwest on a frequent basis and I’m seeing a fair amount of construction activity. I wonder how employment is going for the trades right now?

  8. guy from the bay says:

    I grew up and live in the Bay Area. This tech bubble is a complete Federal Reserve cheap money extravaganza. Low interest rates force everyone to invest in crappy start-ups that mostly fail.

    All the success of these smug techies is because of cheap fed money.

    • Mike says:

      That still smells like opportunity – form a start up and get some of that low cost capital before it goes away. If the money is carefully hoarded, you can survive the upcoming bloodbath when the others don’t.

      • Mary says:

        If your goal is to carefully hoard the money ?, you don’t have to run a start up for that. You can just play in wall street.

  9. Gershon says:

    I may need to re-read “Lucifers’ Hammer.” In the coming Great Reset caused by the Fed’s debasement of the dollar and collapse of our unsustainable debt, credit, and derivative bubbles, I suspect a lot of these IT-related skills will be far less useful than the ability to repair small engines or cultivate a garden.

    • Frederick says:

      I’m working on those at the moment Just harvested my first peppers and tomatoes as well as a few qts of black mulberries This fall I will be planting an acre with fruit trees walnut almond citrus and avocado Plus setting up a chicken coup and getting some turkey chicks Lovin it

    • RD Blakeslee says:

      ” … a lot of these IT-related skills will be far less useful than the ability to repair small engines or cultivate a garden.”


      Been there, (done that?) – Nope – always did – still do.

      Part time while I practiced one of “the … skills” (patent examining). Used leveraged earnings and real estate microdeals to escape, as soon as I could.

      Haven’t looked at a patent for 43 years.

    • Coaster Noster says:

      This “back to basics” theme, with a “collapse” is favored by people who are mentally stuck fighting the issues of the 20th century. Small engine generators from China (smog cert. for California) are $99 from Harbor Freight. The price of a 5-lb bag of potatoes has remained static for years in California. What are farmers going to do when everything “collapses”? Stop growing crops?
      Economically, it would be more prudent to take that “garden” area, put a 10×10 “room” (studio) on it, and rent it, if everything has “collapsed”.

      Overpopulation for certain geographies is warping the job market, housing markets, average wealth, for certain areas. But it won’t “collapse” anything.

      Programming demands are far from a saturation phase, and it is doubtful that it will ( I stopped programming in 2003, but I watch it all unfold.) It touches so many aspects of our lives that are unseen (healthcare, government, contracting) that benefit from increased efficiency. Facebook…Google…Amazon…can you explain why, after they established their basic businesses, they hired hundreds more programmers? Why “more programmers”? What creates the demand?

      • Petunia says:

        The demand for more programmers comes from these companies being global enterprises. The products roll out differently in every market, different languages, different features, different marketing methods(advertising models).

      • alex in san jose says:

        Coaster – some good points.

        I lived for a while on a “survivalist compound” south of the Bay Area. The main product produced was drama. If you’re the kind of person to “pitch in”, on one of these places, be prepared to get all the work loaded onto you. Yes we grew food. But the people down there would have a very hard time without CostCo. Food storage, fire safety, hell basic perimeter security and just being able to get along with the neighbors, “Meh” to really bad. I finally gave up, deciding that if the world turns into the kind of world these people pine for, I’m not gonna stick around to see ’em gunfighting over a can of poorly-stored corpsey-tasting SPAM. I’ll take my chances in the city.

        Interestingly, while I expected my food expanses to go up in the big bad city, they stayed the same. Yeah, I miss being able to grow stuff, but the farmer’s markets up here are great. So are the ethnic markets.

        Everyone wants their “redoubt” out in the boonies, but it would be well to read the writings of “Ferfal”, a survivalist guru who noticed that often it’s the rural places where things got the worst as his country, Argentina, went down the tubes. He’s happily living in a city in Ireland now.

        As for programming, I’m in my mid-50s so kinda old, but I thought maybe there’s some area of programming I could get into, maybe embedded stuff or something, but there’s just no demand. No jobs. One of my boss’s side projects needed a good PIC programmer, so I was thinking, maybe I’ll get into that, but I looked around and there’s just no demand for PIC programmers. And there’s so little demand for programmers in general that except for a tiny number of superstars who are making big wages, most programming seems to be done by $15 an hour guys who are just glad they get to sit and type instead of hefting boxes around in a warehouse.

        • ping pong says:

          Interesting… do a search on one of the big jobs boards like and search for programmer, software developer, software + other key words.. and see what you get..
          I was surprised as to how few positions came up.

        • CrazyCooter says:

 has an interesting job trend search engine that I find useful (as long as the sector is well covered by Indeed).

          You are correct about ensuring there is enough demand in a specific technology sector before hitching your trailer!

          Here are the trends for “ASP.NET”:

          I also use this to qualify products that have specific programming that go with them to help me determine what my market for contracting out work we can’t do in house – the bigger the market, the better my choices will be.



    • ANON says:

      Here’s another good read :)
      The main character might have realized the interest does not exist and *must* not exist in order to be perceived as value, and the consequences of that.

    • Mary says:

      The skill that will be even more useful is how to bet on falling asset prices and make a killing out of a well executed short.

      Repair engine all you want, but then don’t cry for free healthcare please.

  10. Bobber says:

    A high paying tech job isn’t all that attractive if the increased salary is more than offset by higher living costs. The average sane person put 2+2 together and left the area a long time ago.

    The only people remaining in San Fran think they are going to get rich some day, so they believe current living costs don’t matter. Deep down, they are all dreamers. As a whole, they’ve done well so far, but stocks are pretty pricey now.

    • Paulo says:

      I cannot think of a worse existence than working at a terminal all day, plus trying to remain current and needed. When I got out of high school I worked for a year in a sawmill. I’d do that in a minute than spend my life indoors in an office warren. Add to that no or little prospects to buy a home, it’s a no brainer.

      But what do I know, I’m just a poor dumb tradesman who retired in my fifties. I just got back walking my dog for a couple miles along ‘the river’. You can have the hamster wheel as far as I’m concerned.

      Think outside the box, or you’ll end up living and working in one. LinkedIn a necessity? I don’t think so. These days big employers use computer programs to register buzz words and/or key phrases to winnow resume applicants. Think how many good applicants and worthwhile employees they might be missing? Something is very wrong with the way society is evolving. Very wrong.

      • Bee says:

        Great post. I could have used these words ten years ago.

      • ft says:

        As a retired old fart living in a crapshack almost within spitting distance of LinkedIn headquarters, I would say:

        A lot of people here couldn’t think of a worse existence than NOT working at a terminal all day. Busy trying to create a need for a bunch of crap that nobody really needs, which is the primary product of Silicon Valley la-la land. For them, outfits like LinkedIn are a necessity.

        I worked as a field service engineer. Hands on. There was and is a need for people like us here, but not always a lot of respect.

        • JZ says:

          There is a difference between need and “pricing power”. This thing puzzled me for a while. It is logical to think who ever provide services that truly improves people’s life should be part of the good society and should be rewarded and make a decent living.
          People do NOT respect the need business in the same way people do NOT respect water. People do respect drugs and that’s what silicon valley built in the recent decade.

          It is the want business that has the pricing power, and what people respect is “power”,NOT necessity.

        • Bee says:

          JZ—good post. One thing that makes me want to go off is when ignorant people complain of grocery-store food prices. They have no idea the (growing) costs involved: real estate, seed, risk, water, toil, transport, etc. But they have no problem going out for fast food (garbage) which costs 3x as much as making it at home. People today are clueless!
          P.S. Imagine their surprise when they realize how in an instant our food supply could dry up should there be some sort of major disruption.

      • MaxDakota says:

        All my peers are on LinkedIn, and while I do know people who have gotten jobs through it, I still know more people who have gotten jobs the old fashioned way: through people they know. “Networking” through an app doesn’t replace face to face networking.

      • Sutter Cane says:

        I grew up on a farm, my parents both farmed until they were in their 60s. People who romanticize manual labor amuse me. I work in a cubicle and sure, the sedentary nature of the work takes its own toll on the body, but nothing like working outside in the heat or cold. Especially once you aren’t 18 anymore. Give me a desk job any day. My parents say the same.

      • Mary says:

        Nothing wrote with society. You clearly made smart choices, which worked out well for you. I am really glad it did, but others are making their own choices. I have nothing but the utmost respect for you (unless you are living on welfare while walking your dog), but what is the need to denigrate those who want a different life and work environment. As you clearly stated, the society allows for different choice.

    • Jon says:

      I have lot of friends acquaintances in bay area working in hi tech
      Their green card processing is tied to given employer hence they can’t leave their employer

      Especially for indians.. it may take atleast 10 to 15 years to get your green card
      These kind of employees are very pliant and steady workforce for employers

      They also tend to work at least 60 hours a week or more although they are laid 140k or more

      But in general.. h1bs equate to cheap and pliant workforce who are rendered chained to their employers for decade or so if they want to get their green card

      • RD Blakeslee says:

        “…they are laid 140k or more”

        I’m 86 and I know the wife and I will never accomplish that …

        • Jon says:

          I meant .. They are paid 140k or more..
          Also.. if you are above 35 yrs …you are old for tech job..

        • alex in san jose says:

          Except my boss is about 70 and he’s got work – as mentioned before, because he knew the guy he works for before being hired, but still, it’s because he knows not only electronics but physics, chemistry, optics, photonics, nuclear engineering, etc. So you get someone who only knows microprocessors and they’re trying to get something with magnetic components in it to work, and yeah, that’s not gonna happen. It helps that my boss works for a medical device company so it’s not just microprocessors and apps it’s things that generate a pulse of energy, have to transduce it, stuff like that.

          But for the average techie, yep, once you’re 40 you’re done. If you have the eyesight, you get a job driving a bus or light rail for the VTA.

      • R2D2 says:

        It’s about what skills you have; just cause someone calls himself programmer, it doesn’t mean he is a programmer. These days, you have to know 50-60 different complex technologies to barely pass the interviews. It’s one of the crappiest industries to be in. You have to constantly update yourself, and you have to memorize 10s of thousands of little facts to be just competent enough to get hired.

        And as a bonus, they replace you with a an H1-B the moment that your boss or higher manager doesn’t like your personality, no matter how competent you might be. If I knew, I would have gone to a medical field, but too late.

    • T.J., not TJ says:

      Silicon Valley feels like “Bonfire of the Vanities”. Everyone making a lot and spending a lot. No wealth accumulation for almost everyone.

  11. ERG says:

    The latest craze in employment is photo-shopping credentials. Don’t have the qualifications? No problem, just make it all up. Its not as if the quals have any real connection to being able to do the job anyway.

  12. Rejected By Target says:

    There’s a film from last year called “San Francisco 2.0” (I think it’s available on Amazon), two bits from it stand out in my brain. The first one was “How did you go from a securities broker to homeless?” “Well, there was a recession, no one was hiring. I went through my unemployment benefits, cashed out my 401K, then I started working temp jobs. I know other people that are in my position that are college educated, that have lost everything…I’m 61, I’ve got two college degrees, I’ve got about 30 years’ experience, working in the corporate world, and nobody wants somebody like me…I don’t live in your world anymore. Things are completely different. What you take for granted doesn’t exist in my world anymore.”

    The 2nd one was this, “If anyone else came along and said ‘I’m gonna create a new taxi service,’ the union would have been like ‘you cant do that…you want drivers that have never been tested and you don’t want insurance…no, you can’t, that’s not a good idea.’ But, as soon as you hold it up and say ‘It’s on an iPhone!’ ‘Oh, it’s on an iPhone? That’s amazing! We should absolutely have this! That’s awesome, what else can you do on iPhone, this stuff is amazing!'”

    • Rejected By Target says:

      Oh, and as for StinkedIn…I concluded several years ago that the only way to get hired today is to have a supermodel-hot profile pic on StinkedIn. I’ve lost count of how many times my resume looked good enough to motivate the HR person / hiring mgr to view my profile but the invitation to interview never followed. Clearly, they see a middle-aged (hence, unattractive) woman and say “forget it” (my glowing recommendations written by clients/colleagues are worthless). Yep, thank heavens we have StinkedIn to weed out folks like me!

      On a few occasions, I sent complaint letters to CEOs about how poorly I was treated by their respective HR departments. Never got a reply, but almost always got a notification that “someone at X Company viewed your profile.” Now, why do this? The time to have looked at my profile was when I applied for the job, what do they expect to get out of this now, do they think they’re gonna find nekkid pictures of me or something? And, it always makes me laugh that they have the time to do this when they didn’t have the time to look at my application — I keep a close eye on visitors to my online portfolio, the same people who had the time to snoop on me now never bothered to view my work. Sheesh…

    • alex in san jose says:

      RejectedByTarget – I think I’ve talked to the same homeless guy.

    • ping pong says:

      Didn’t Uber and Lyft stick “a thumb” in the eye of the taxi driver union?

  13. prepalaw says:

    Why do have to live in SF to work for a SF Hi Tech company?

    Every company has a secured network, which the employee can access.

    Taking 2 equally skilled people, does the person working out of his house in Toledo Ohio produce poorer quality work than his SF-based counterpart.

    • Gary says:

      prepalaw: That’s actually an interesting point. Here these high-tech companies work on nothing but “networking”-type software that will supposedly change the world, and yet they themselves need to be physically together.

      Go figure.

      • TJ Martin says:

        Well .. just from my own personal experiences [ having been courted by Apple & Microsoft ] .. the reasons Telecommuting is not as prevalent as is possible and one might think is because the majority of ‘ tech ‘ companies prefer to keep a ‘ cult ‘ like atmosphere of only associating with your own peers .. living in the same neighborhoods etc on top of the expectations that you’ll work 24/7 sleeping bag under the desk if needed . And for me .. despite a bit of consulting for Apple on the side .. I don’t join cults be they Religious – Business – Political or otherwise

      • Petunia says:

        They can abuse you better in person than online. Just like working on Wall St., tech is a brutal job.

      • alex in san jose says:

        Gary – Just one anecdote, but my boss had a contract with a new theatrical-lighting startup. He was going to have the tiny surface-mount components done by a “board house” then the bigger stuff, he’d have me solder on. He sent the boards to a place in Colorado, with the understanding that there’d be a 2-day turnaround, instead they kept them for 2 weeks and didn’t even do any work on them. Dealing with them was a nightmare. Boss and I were talking about this late one night, and I guess we’d each had a glass or wine or two, and I exclaimed, “There’s got to be at least one decent board shop in this town, and I’m gonna find one!” and I got onto Craig’s List, found a place, went to their site, where boss and I filled in the contact form. But better: The place’s address was near a music shop I planned to visit anyway, so the next day I went over on my bike. I met with the head honcho, and said I’m the guy who filled in their contact form last night … “We have a contact form??” was the response. So, he showed me lots of neat boards and let me take a few small ones with me to show my boss the soldering, and we got together with them. Their actual workshop is walking distance from where I’m sitting now. And the boards they did were great. One-day turnaround is not only possible, but if they’re not too busy, the default.

        You simply can’t do business without being there in person. Video conferencing can help, but when it comes down to it, you have to be in close enough proximity that you can smell the other guy’s farts. Until there’s a “Holodeck” that you literally can’t tell from reality, that’s how it will be. And that’s why tech tends to be crammed into a few areas. I’d like it a lot better if it were more spread out, because I’d like to live in, say, Colorado Springs in a $200 a month apartment making $15 an hour, rather than here in a $2000 a month apartment, making $15 an hour.

        • Gary says:

          Thanks for that info. I think there’s a lot more anecdotes like that!

          My theory is that technology may indeed be progressing towards the “Holodeck” (big maybe), but do you really need to build a billion dollar machine to “smell the other guy”? It seems to me that the industry is trying to violate the second law of thermodynamics:

          “If I had a million dollars, we wouldn’t walk to the store, we’d take a limousine because it costs more”

      • HudsonJr says:

        I currently work remotely for a Bay area tech company that doesn’t really officially support it. I think this is mostly a “if I let one person do it then I have to let everyone else do it” policy.

        However, certain circumstances make it easier to make a case for it.

        #1. You already work for a distributed team, or a significant amount of your work involves other locations. Depending on where you intend to work remotely, it’s possible that you could be moving somewhere where it’s easier to work across a number of time zones compared to the West Coast.

        #2. You have significant experience in an industry and have already spent significant time with the company.

        #3. You tell the company that you’ll work from home (or wherever), and if they can’t make that work you will walk.

        Now being a remote worker, there are a few things that come to mind as challenges hassles for a company.

        #1. Tax considerations. Depending on where you live, where the company has offices, and what tax reciprocity agreements exist, there might be some tax hassle and costs that the company might not want to take on. Additionally you may have extra tax responsibilities.

        #2. Tech hassles. Someone that can self-help on issues with VPN or failing hardware is a much better candidate than someone who expects the company to fall all over themselves to deal with the special case remote worker.

      • Slynnns says:

        prepalaw – you’d need to at least orient yourself to the SF tech company culture first if you wanted to be successful working remotely for it. In person is the easiest way to do that. Much of communication is non-verbal and unless you’re on audio and video chat, you’re missing that in the chats/wikis/emails.

        At tech companies there ARE some teams where members are in different cities (London, Dublin, Seattle) and countries but the time differences are a real B for the workers especially with families depending on when meeting times are set. There are a lot of meetings. Some companies try to focus teams and skills in certain locations – particularly where it’s easy to recruit for it. No Toledo hubs that I’m aware of…

        And, a some of the work is done in a complex matrix style so you’d work with project managers and different products. Might be more complex than just firing up your computer and writing code.

        Yes, technology for meetings is not as great as it could be and yes, it is ironic. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of working remotely, I think you can honestly admit that it can get out of hand for some people if you’re talking about a home office situation – even Yahoo scaled it back when they wanted to make a turn-around in their company.

    • Guido says:

      Before Marissa Meyer, telecommuting and working from home were accepted practices here in Bay Area. Then she got the CNN/NPR/NYT types to sing praises for her must-work-from-office policy. The idea was justified that best ideas come from “brainstorming” — just look at the greatest invention of mankind from Facebook, the “like button”.

      This combined with Agile practices has now become an excuse to not work. Bay Area is full of people who wouldn’t have been hire-able 10 years ago but are now hired because companies/managers cannot burn through their budgets fast enough (or risk losing them). So people hold meetings and they are long, long meetings. A big database company, for example, holds status meetings on the hour and then another in the middle of the hour sometimes to check on the status of the work that was agreed up on at the beginning of the hour.

      When you have a remote worker, s/he is on the hook for delivering the work and that’s all that counts. The parameters that gain importance in the current system that requires physical presence are those that have something to do with clocking in and clocking out. Scrum must be updated with the amount it takes to do the work. So people state they need more time than they actually need. They are graded on how much they delivered on what they said they’ll do, so they make it easy for themselves. Those god awfully long meetings are usually negotiations between various groups of what will be done and mostly what won’t be done for the current cycle. The stress is now on being a social animal.

      And then there is the long commute time. Most people now are more tired and the ideas are staler by the day.

      And why did Meyer do this in the first place? So that remote workers don’t go off and work on their own start ups. It never occurred to her that she pays for the work and not the time it takes to complete. For her, you were essentially an hourly worker that must be kept busy for the entire hour.

      On a side note, with the focus now on the amount of time it takes, the entire ecosystem is now about gaming the timing. That is why you have tools like Jira from Attlassian and Slack, which are used to make status notes and simply chat away to glory (people gossip on these and discuss politics). Everybody is trying to cover their ass by leaving a long paper trail.

      • akiddy111 says:

        I wonder if there will be more or less software engineers in, say, 25 years from now.

        It was interesting to read that Jeff Bezos recently said – in reference to Amazon’s push into India very recently – that their India business has enough computer scientists but needs more cowboys.

      • R2D2 says:

        God, I hate meetings; majority of them add nothing. Communication through email is far more effective than most meetings, but the problem is that meetings is all most dumb managers know of; that’s their job, just to sit in 10 different meetings per day.

        I had this manger who was 9-5 in meetings, constantly. I always wonder what the hell does this guy really accomplishes? If I sit in meetings all day like that, after 6 month, I’ll be the dumbest person in the world.

    • Marty says:

      Great question. A buddy works for a corp behemoth in SF where they think they are high tech geniuses (NOT) and have offices all over the state. My buddy lives 4 hours away from corporate and thought about asking for a transfer to a programming group in SF, full of arrogant know-nothings continually over-promising and under-delivering to “help” them. But, last year corporate passed down an edict that everyone in programming groups must be on site–no telecommuting.

      So this mythical world of “hey, you can work from anywhere in the world, all you need is an internet connection” some how doesn’t work for the very industry that spews out that ‘futuristic” propaganda. Silly Con Valley at its best.

      • gary says:

        Yes, I made a similar comment above.

        BTW, I once worked in a [non-tech] job that used Dropbox for logs. It was absolute garbage, with the usual problem of crashes but also it would create several differing versions of the same file, and other problems. It was a big headache. Just using non-cloud software or else paper logs was much easier.

  14. IdahoPotato says:

    Has anyone seen Denver, CO or Provo-Orem, UT, Durham, NC or DFW, TX of late? Why are people in the Bay Area refusing to move? I left the Bay Area in 2004.

    Dumped my big mortgage and long commute. Got a slightly lower paying job in Boise, ID. I am now mortgage-free and self-employed at 45. More financially secure than I would have been if I had stayed on in the Bay Area. I recently visited San Jose and was shocked at the exploding homelessness and generally poor condition of the place.

    • akiddy111 says:

      Good for you. I’m glad you are happy with your decision. West Coast tech cities are becoming very crowded. The mood may become very sombre (or worse) if a downturn hits. I’m watching the Nasdaq. It’s up almost 25% y/y.
      If it does that again it’ll be at 8000. Nose bleed dangerous.

    • Frederick says:

      Lived in Durham on campus of Duke University for a month last year I liked the town but it’s alittle rough A lot of poor blacks and latinos

    • Bee says:

      Shh, don’t advertise. Keep them in SF!

    • Wolf Richter says:


      They’re not refusing to move…. They’re moving. But a lot of people are also coming in (still).

      • IdahoPotato says:

        Wolf, true. But I have my friends in CA saying they will never ever move because of the great weather and great jobs and awesome tech scene, etc. while living in million dollar crapshacks right on an earthquake faultline.

        Idaho is for hicks, apparently. I am a brown-skinned Indian girl, liberal as they come, but I prefer to be debt-free and sane in Boise, thank you.

        • alex in san jose says:

          There are no jobs out there. Unless you have connections, there are no jobs anywhere, really. But as an example for me to move out to Idaho, what would I do? Even if I lucked out, maybe found a job no one else wants to do like cleaning toilets or grease pits, it’d pay $10 an hour and rents in flyover country are not very far behind California rents.

          I’m gonna guess you have some sort of an “in” there. You have family who owns hotels, convenience stores, something like that. They got you in. Maybe you live in a family-owned hotel for free or for keeping their computers working. Or you live above the convenience store and keep the lottery computer working smoothly.

          Not everyone can move to the jobless wasteland that’s flyover country and not end up far, far worse off than they’d be in California.

        • IdahoPotato says:

          @Alex in San Jose

          I moved here to work for a large company, then branched out to do tech consulting on my own. There is an explosion of tech activity in Boise and other mid-tier cities. I am not part of a family business and did not inherit a penny. There are plenty of opportunities here, not just in blue collar jobs.

          Last month I was in Lehi, Utah and it is now attempting to become a mini Silicon Valley. What was fagebrush ten years ago is now a huge tech complex with Micron, Abobe, Microsoft, you name it.

        • Wolf Richter says:


          I totally get your point. It spent decades living in Texas and Oklahoma. Cost of living was a dream back then (including oil bust when my apartment rent dropped 30% over 2 years) and when I bought a 2,000 sq. ft. condo on the umpteenth floor with gorgeous views of big sunsets, thunderstorms, and yes, tornadoes … from a collapsing bank for a song.

          But I also totally get the point of view of your friends. We love living in San Francisco and have no intention of moving.

        • Raymond C. Rogers says:

          Congratulations on your debt-debt free lifestyle. I too come from a liberal state (NY) and live debt-free. But there is a difference beyond housing costs why this is attainable.

          When I moved here, people would say “I hope you didn’t come here with New York values”. My reply is “why would I try to re-create the cesspool I escaped from?”

          Being able to conduct buisiness in freedom loving states is a wonderful experience. But that can be easily voted away. My better half, coming from the CA would go back. She greatly enjoys being able to sieze opportunities, without being inundated with crushing regulations and taxation.

          It worries me when people state they are liberal and move to these last remaining areas of opportunity. The locals call it “liberal locusts”. My better half has had opportunities crushed by changing political changing landscapes. That opportunity was no longer obtainable here until she moved operations. If it is lost here, it will be captured overseas.

        • alex in san jose says:

          Idaho Potato – Upon re-reading your post, I figured that you may well have either transferred with a large company, gotten hired by large company B after putting in a few years at large company A and thus been desirable by large company B, or if you sold a house with a “big mortgage”, gotten some equity out to last you a few years while you job-hunted.

          If I were a skilled welder, for instance, I could pretty much “write my own ticket” to go pretty much anywhere. And I’ve considered it; I’d look first at taking some classes at a local place called Tech Shop just to see if I like it OK, then consider going through a trade school program, maybe at De Anza college or something. But welding is not only hard on older bodies (that can be dealt with to some degree) but it’s notoriously hard on eyes, and my eyes are already marginal enough it’s all I can do not to burst out in giggles every time the DMV renews my driver’s license.

          I can totally see moving to a place like Idaho with savings, company-to-company connections, and maybe a disaster plan like buying some cheap land and an RV so at not to become full-on homeless.

          I’ve lived in flyover country and it’s like the 1930s out there, just no, no, no jobs. Maybe they do need about 17 tech people in Idaho and you lucked out, becoming one of them. Congrats.

    • Louis says:

      The contagion of unaffordable housing has already infected Denver–prices are rising faster than wages but somebody is buy this stuff–and Boulder is well on it’s way to becoming a microcosm of San Francisco.

  15. RD Blakeslee says:

    Some of the discussion here has been about the interaction between newcomers and old-timers in rural areas.

    Here in WV we had an influx of hippies in the 1960s and 70s – the place was wide open for pot growers, until vice-president George H.W. Bush lent a government helicopter to the local sheriff’s dept and the state police, which was used to bust a whole bunch of them, after which the small fry growers did a short stretch in the Federal pen, but the local banker who laundered their cash (allegedly delivered in black vinyl trash bags) escaped prosecution, much to the chagrin of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of WV.

    The county’s prosecuting attorney pled the fifth and was allowed to migrate to Miami Beach.

    As the late Paul Harvey used to say: “Now for the rest of the story …”: A goodly number of these well-educated young dropouts stayed around and, together with later arrivals, are now doing their best to shut down WV’s natural gas production and pipeline industries.

    They are, shall we say, a mixed blessing.

    • Kent says:

      I consider myself to be an environmentalist. I’d just as soon banish all types of fossil fuels and require the world to go to solar/wind/electric vehicles/whatever.

      However, I’m also a realist. People really only have the opportunity to care about the environment when they can already care for themselves and their families. And that means they need decent jobs first.

      And I’m a hypocrite. While I’ve invested to cut my energy consumption in half over the last 5 years or so (not really hard or expensive), that last half is expensive. So I haven’t done it. If solar came down another 30% or so I’d go for it. And if I could buy an EV that could go 400 miles between charges and was affordable, I’d buy one. But they don’t exist.

      And I make decent money. Most folks don’t. So to expect them to do some of those things is unreasonable. I get that.

      But the absolute last freaking thing anyone needs to be doing is fighting against (cleaner) nat gas production in a dirty coal and poor state. I’ve come to the conclusion that most people would like to see a clean, healthy natural environment. But when some jacka$$es come in gutting people’s jobs in the name of the environment, they are doing more harm than any possible good over the long term.

      • RD Blakeslee says:

        Kent, I wish there could be more of your balanced, reasonable approach to modern life. For me at my age, I’m just satisfied to be out of the fray.

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