Tech Check

The Other 'Jobs' Starts to Drive Tech Recovery

Sure Steve Jobs commands the news, but while the jury might still be out on Apple's next big thing, that other "jobs" is beginning to enjoy some momentum.

Jobs, as in employment, got a big boost in a backhanded way last week when Oracle announced it would be adding 2,000 positions (but cutting 1,000) in the wake of its $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems . Yesterday, Cisco CEO John Chambers said his company would add between 2,000 and 3,000 jobs this quarter, following the 1,000 hires Cisco made last quarter, and the 1,000 other jobs Cisco added to its payroll from acquisitions.

A quick check around the Valley shows that indeed the popcorn kernels have begun to pop.

I'm sick of the mustard seed and green-shoot analogies, so I'm going with popcorn. Heat up some oil, pour some kernels in and watch what happens. The oil heats up; then a kernel pops, and then another one, and another one, and then all of sudden, the whole pan goes. We're at the one-then-another-then-another stage, but it's clear the oil in tech is indeed getting hotter.

Ask, an online job board. I spoke to the folks there today who tell me that the 57,000 positions on the site are essentially flat year over year, but in tech, it's decidedly another story. There are 3,400 positions open here in Silicon Valley on the board; that's up 23 percent from February of last year. Not bad.

Intel's job board shows 338 positions open right now. Tesla just filed for a $100 million public offering, and some of those proceeds will go toward adding hundreds of workers to staff a new manufacturing plant in Silicon Valley. Solyndra, the solar panel company in Fremont, filed for a $300 million IPO of its own, it's building a massive plant in Fremont, CA and it says it'll create at least 1,000 jobs. And just this week, AOL said it would be doubling its Bay Area presence, moving into the old Netscape headquarters (it's about time!), and will hire 300 workers. Yes, AOL did lay off a third of its workforce, or about 2,300 workers, but maybe this is a little bit of a bounce?

The unemployment news today was surprisingly awful; and there's a pretty good chance the jobs report tomorrow will now be a lot worse than the experts were projecting. But before you jump to the doom-and-gloom scenario and embrace the worries of a double-dip, consider what Chambers said on our air this morning, that the signs of recovery are the best he's seen in his career.

This won't be an instant recovery; it'll certainly take some time.

But the indications are finally there that the worst might be behind us. Not just economically, but on a job-loss basis as well. Companies in cut-back mode last year seem to be turning the corner and it's starting with tech.

Start-ups, established companies. It's starting to look just a little better. Please pass the butter… Pop. Pop. Pop.

Questions?  Comments?