In the first three months of 2023, there have been many signs pointing toward a looming economic recession: the failure of major banks, long-lasting inflation, lower consumer spending. What’s more, during the first three months of 2023, major tech companies have participated in some of the most significant layoffs the industry has ever seen, with more than 150,000 tech employees asked to leave work permanently.
Despite attempts by the Federal Reserve to keep the economy healthy, the post-pandemic economy continues to slow down, and at the start of the second quarter, most economic experts expect a recession in the coming months. And, though most tech workers have long been told that the tech industry is completely and totally recession-proof, it is clear that tech companies are already suffering from an economic squeeze.
So, do tech workers need to pivot into new career paths, or should they sit tight and expect to survive the all-but-certain 2023 recession?
What “Recession-proof” Really Means
“Recession-proof” is a popular phrase in the media — but it is often applied carelessly by those who fail to understand what the term actually means. Frequently, “recession-proof” is used to describe career fields that are experiencing growth or have traditionally experienced growth regardless of economic activity. In truth, the phrase “recession-proof” should refer only to businesses, industries and roles that are unlikely to be massively impacted by any negative economic activity. For example, some of the following industries are highly regarded as recession-proof:
Healthcare. People continue to require a vast array of services to maintain health and wellbeing, regardless of the health of the economy.
Law enforcement. Criminal activity can increase during times of economic hardship, so law enforcement becomes even more critical.
Education services. When unemployment is high during recessions, many workers turn to education to improve their credentials and employment potential.
Utilities. The need for electricity, water, internet, waste management and other utilities does not decrease during periods of economic turmoil.
Typically, recession-proof industries and businesses are not totally unaffected by the behavior of the economy. During difficult economic periods like recessions, fields like those above may experience hiring freezes or budget cuts, but they are unlikely to engage in massive layoffs or close entire offices. So, does tech truly fall under the recession-proof category of careers?
Some Tech Fields Are More Recession-proof Than Others
Unfortunately, the tech industry has recently fallen victim to the incorrect use of “recession-proof.” During the previous two recessions (caused by the dot-com bubble and the housing crisis) tech companies continued to grow despite economic stagnation and shrinkage. This was due in large part to the disruptive nature of digital technology at the time; during the early 21st century, consumer digital tech was still brand-new, and there were many opportunities for tech companies to improve and expand. Decades later in 2023, the tech industry is well-established, which means it is much more likely to be affected by negative economic activity.
Still, there are some fields within the tech industry that are more recession-proof than others. For example, cybersecurity is likely to grow during the coming months and years, regardless of any looming recession. Like law enforcement, cybersecurity helps to keep average users safe from bad actors and cyberattackers, and during periods of slow economic growth, cybercrime has the potential to increase. Those interested in pursuing a high-level tech credential that will be invaluable in the coming years should consider online cybersecurity degrees.
Another tech field that is likely to remain relatively unimpacted by the 2023 recession is Big Data. Data has become an essential resource for many industries and organizations, which rely almost entirely on massive amounts of data to function. Database architects and administrators as well as data analysts are likely to experience some insulation from the recession, thanks to the importance of their work.
Economists, financial analysts and all manner of policymakers seem to be bracing for a recession toward the end of 2023, which means professionals in every industry might start to consider how their work might be impacted by an economic downturn. Tech isn’t as recession-proof as it used to be, but with the right choice of tech career, workers can stay safe from economic turmoil for years to come.