AI talent is in demand even as tech layoffs mount

Companies on the hunt for AI talent appear willing to pay up. (iStockphoto)
Companies on the hunt for AI talent appear willing to pay up. (iStockphoto)

Summary

Postings for artificial-intelligence-related roles are growing and touting higher pay.

U.S. companies are ramping up recruitment of artificial-intelligence professionals and paying a premium for talent.

Firms in the tech sector and beyond went on a hiring spree after the onset of the pandemic before pivoting to a focus on efficiency through layoffs and other cost-cutting measures. The market for AI-related roles has proved resilient, job-listings data show.

AI-related jobs including machine-learning engineers and data scientists existed before the debut of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, said Anil K. Gupta, a professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business and co-lead of its artificial-intelligence-job tracker. The chatbot put a user interface on the technology, he said, opening eyes about ways to embed AI into products and workflows even as the tech talent market was still pulling back after a period of overhiring.

(Source: UMD-LinkUp AI Maps)
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(Source: UMD-LinkUp AI Maps)

The Maryland tracker, published in partnership with job-data firm LinkUp and consulting firm Outrigger Group, classifies AI jobs as those requiring a technical understanding of AI algorithms or models. Its measure of IT jobs comprises a broad group of computer- and math-related occupations.

Other measures of the AI and tech job markets show similar patterns. On the job-search platform Indeed, AI-related postings and overall data-science and software-engineering postings are moving in opposite directions.

These diverging trends are playing out at some of the country’s largest companies in a shift of resources toward artificial intelligence.

Amazon has cut jobs across several areas in recent months, citing changing priorities across its businesses that include AI. Google parent Alphabet has been working to marshal resources toward developments in AI while also cutting back on spending. UPS, which plans to cut about 12,000 jobs this year, has been increasing its use of AI and machine-learning tools. And last week, Apple abandoned a decadelong electric-car project and will be redeploying some employees to work on AI efforts.

Indeed measures an AI role as any listing that includes an artificial-intelligence-related keyword, including in the job title, description and company name. Job categories on the platform with the largest share of AI-related postings are largely data or engineering focused.

Postings for roles related specifically to generative AI, the technology behind ChatGPT that can produce text and visual content, were basically nonexistent on Indeed before the chatbot’s launch. The listings still make up a fraction of jobs on the platform but have since boomed.

Companies on the hunt for AI talent appear willing to pay up.

“It’s the tech area du jour," said Andrea De Ville, a partner in consulting firm Aon’s human capital practice. “Everybody wants to know about premium pay for AI-related roles."

In a recent survey Aon conducted among some of its tech clients, about three-quarters of companies said AI skills justify a pay premium, meaning higher compensation for the median new hire relative to that of existing employees.

On online hiring platform ZipRecruiter, listed pay for jobs related to AI can top that for their non-AI counterparts by tens of thousands of dollars.

Write to Nate Rattner at nate.rattner@wsj.com

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