- Demand for artificial intelligence (AI) talent did not escape the economic crunch triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. AI job posts in the U.S. slowed their growth by almost 10% according to a review of AI and machine learning (ML) job postings from LinkedIn.
- Between Jan. 6 and March 15, AI and ML job posts on the site grew 14% compared to the same period in 2019. But in the 10 weeks following March 15, that growth dipped to just 4.6% year over year, as companies enacted temporary hiring freezes and retooled onboarding procedures.
- In the context of an economic contraction and stay-at-home orders, AI and ML jobs actually grew 8.3% during the 10-week period after March 15, when normalized against trends in overall job postings. The stat indicates employers are prioritizing these AI and ML specialist roles despite the broader lull in talent, according to LinkedIn.
At the start of the pandemic, business leadership looked for ways to cut back on tech spending as revenues took a shellacking.
Half of chief financial officers proclaimed their intentions to cut or defer IT investments, though just one in five planned to halt investments on digital transformation. Systems that enabled remote work gained attention in response to the sweeping stay-at-home orders.
For 23% of companies, the strategy called for a 90-day pause on all new hires until financial scenarios became clearer. In May, the tech sector lost 33,800 jobs, though the workforce contraction was still smaller than in the previous month, when the sector lost 112,000 jobs.
Staffing priorities indicate where companies will focus attention and resources. Despite the pandemic-induced lull, the overall job market for AI specialists continues to grow year-over-year, which signals the setback may be temporary.
"Increasingly, AI may become a tool in the toolbox for solving business problems, with expertise spread throughout people in many different roles at a company," said Zhichun Jenny Ying, senior data scientist and economist at LinkedIn, in a blog post.
With business models and strategies thrust in uncharted territory, the appetite for AI as a booster of worker efficiency will rise. As they try to hit similar revenue goals with less staff and amid an economic contraction, business leaders will look to the tech stack to increase outputs.
Now is the time for companies to focus on filling roles in AI, as the generalized push to a distributed workforce makes talent available regardless of its location, according to Sudheesh Nair, CEO at ThoughtSpot.
"The whole world has opened up," Nair said in an interview with sister publication CIO Dive. Under a distributed model, companies can now provide equal workplace experiences to all employees, opening up talent pools that weren't available before.