On the internal Radar mailing list I recently mused that a lot of our friends are changing jobs again. In open source alone I know an outsourcing manager who is looking to leave her Fortune 500 company, an senior manager looking for a new gig in New York, and a serial entrepreneur looking for something in Washington. Mike Loukides pointed out that movement in salaried labour means the industry is booming. Similarly, when people like Simon Willison, Matt Biddulph, and Alex Russell all return to contracting from salaried employment then you know that there’s a ton of demand.
The corollary is, of course, that when the clever contractors head for salaried positions then bad times are coming. I know that I ran for the bosom of O’Reilly in 2000 when I felt the bust coming. If you wanted a bellweather for the future of the tech economy, you could track a few dozen brilliant contractors and see when they all begin heading for safe jobs.
Then again, in the bubble there was a tremendous influx of labour as word caught on that the Internet was where the money was. That isn’t happening now: there are huge engineering shortages in all Western countries and many schools of computer science are not replacing staff who leave because there aren’t the students to support them. Does a tighter job market give more or less significance to the individual transactions? I invite those of you who know more economics than I do to answer that question in the comments.