Editor’s note:

March 17, 2013

These are anxious times for working Washington. The federal government is cinching up its belt. If you’ve got a job, chances are you are clinging to it.

And that’s bad for movement in the labor market, I learned last week as I read a transcript of Michael Durney’s remarks at Credit Suisse’s 15th annual global services conference.

Durney is the chief financial officer for Dice Holdings, a firm that runs a host of job sites specializing in the professional sector. ClearanceJobs.com, for instance, offers positions for people requiring security clearances.

The recruitment business thrives on turnover, Durney explained. When you take a new job, that creates an opening for the position you just left, allowing someone else to leave their job, creating yet another vacancy.

These days that churn is not what it used to be.

“There’s a lot of theories about why that is,” Durney said. “The confidence in the employment market is probably the biggest driver.

In sizing up an opportunity, people worry “whether as the last one in, they might be the first one out.”

So Dice has had to devise strategies to coax people out of their seats. The company made a big move recently, buying the popular technology sites Slashdot and Sourceforge from Fairfax-based Geeknet, the retailer of geek-themed novelties.

Durney said the sites, offering news and free software downloads, target the kind of technology-minded audience that might be interested in Dice’s job listings. Visitors could be “silver platter passives,” people tempted to jump ship if the right offer comes along. Or “active seekers,” contractors who are always on the lookout for their next gig once their present opportunity runs its course.

Not everyone is a “potted plant,” liking what they do with no plans to move, he said.

“You have this built-up demand for turnover, people are unhappy in their roles,” Durney said. “They will move at some point.”

Dan Beyers is the founding editor of Capital Business, The Washington Post’s go-to source for news about the region’s business community.
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