Despite unemployment rates increasing across the country to the highest point in five years, IT unemployment is unchanged and is as low as it was in 2000/2001, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics as referenced here (and shown on a nice graph.)

In the past IT was seen as a supplemental skill set. When income was high, business would invest in IT by hiring more IT employees, giving raises and bonuses, and spending money on more training, software and hardware. When low, the opposite occurs. However, many more companies today rely on IT for the entire business as compared with the past when IT was there to assist and create internal reports and other “nice-to-haves”. Now more corporations than ever actually make money from the work of their IT professionals and because of this they cannot cut them as easily as in the past.

As for Rails developers specifically, some feel the hurting economy will help Rails developers. As companies need more IT work, but have less operating income and less venture capital, they may look for shorter development cycles and outsourcing as opposed to funding large internal Enterprise applications often based on more time consuming and less agile coding frameworks.

Recently the FiveRuns blog shared their opinion:

Rails shops are built to do more with less. It’s part of our DNA to be more agile, more nimble, and more productive than developers using “legacy” tools.

They provide other reasons for Rails opportunities being on the rise, including the lower cost to deploy and host Rails applications. reported David Heinemeier Hansson, creator of the Ruby on Rails, as saying:

I think Rails developers are much better positioned to weather the storm as they generally stand for delivering more with less faster. It’s the traditional mainstream environments that are going to see much more pressure to deliver.

Lance Walley, CEO of Engine Yard, added:

A slowing economy will likely lead to constrained IT budgets. There’s a good chance this will have a positive impact on the uptake of open-source options, such as Linux, Ruby and Rails.

Read the linked to articles from above for more opinions on why Rails developers should continue to see lots of opportunities. At the recent Tampa Brigade Ruby meetup it certainly sounded as though there was more opportunity than there were developers, and I’ve heard the same thing from several Tampa Bay recruiters now. Let’s hope it stays that way.

What has your experience been so far?