The tech industry has not been immune to COVID-19. As the pandemic swept the country, STEM professionals lost jobs, startup employees were furloughed, and college seniors were unable to walk across the graduation stage, instead walking into a job market that looked very different than the one they were prepared to enter. Hiring has also been halted — but not everywhere. Even though layoffs in the tech sector were on the rise during the first few months of the pandemic in the United States, there are still pockets of tech resilience in various companies, cities, and regions where job growth is still happening.
One of those places is Northern Virginia, located just outside of Washington, DC and known to locals as NOVA. While much has been written about tech workers fleeing San Francisco and New York City during the pandemic, Northern Virginia's stable tech ecosystem has proved resilient against the headwinds of COVID-19. As the US economy's downward turn left many on the job hunt, the tech industry in NOVA continued its success streak, with the DC area ranking as the number one metropolitan area for IT job postings in March, April, and May. Out of the top tech metros across the country, Northern Virginia's Arlington County also had the third-highest tech job growth, while San Francisco and New York City saw significant downward turns.
Nationwide, the big tech firms have been the most aggressive in expanding their workforces. In April, Amazon advertised over 20,000 open tech jobs, and Facebook is set to hire 10,000 new workers before 2021. NOVA is right in the middle of the action, with Microsoft announcing its upcoming $64 million software development hub (complete with 1,500 new jobs) in Northern Virginia's Fairfax County. Microsoft's announcement comes on the heels of several major expansions into NOVA over the past couple of years, including industry giants like Google, Facebook, and — most famously — one of the largest single job-generating investments in US history, Amazon's HQ2.
Smaller tech firms, especially those that have adapted their production and services during the pandemic, are also seeking new talent. In NOVA, companies who have been actively hiring include low-code automation company Appian; federal IT contractor 1901 Group, whose large-scale technological infrastructures will support government initiatives toward economic recovery; and health IT company MicroHealth, with services that range from health analytics to software engineering.
However, it's not enough for these companies to post available jobs — forward-thinking cities and regions around the country are also helping these employers connect with talent through innovative channels. The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, for example, has built a comprehensive website for finding jobs around the region, and is organizing a series of virtual career fairs to help job seekers connect with companies that are hiring. These online strategies are not only safe and socially distant, but they are also able to reach people all over the country and world, at a time when many city dwellers are ready to leave their shoebox digs in favor of somewhere — like Northern Virginia — with a bit more room to breathe.
COVID-19 has triggered the re-evaluation of many aspects of business and personal life across the globe, including the idea of where one really needs to live to get a good, well-paying job in tech. With budgets tightening amid the economic downturn, companies in increasingly saturated markets are asking themselves that question, and markets like Northern Virginia are quickly stepping in to answer the call.