Economists are in demand in tech firms. This is excellent news for two reasons. First, it bridges the gap between academia and practice. Lot of times, theories exist in their own realms while practice is just wandering. By bringing the two together, we will have a better understanding of phenomena and increase synergy. Second, more hiring from the tech sector decreases publication pressure (more outside options) and alleviates positions in the departments. Now people fight less over tenure.
Of course, there are worries about brain drains and academic institutions being looted of their best professors. However, there are really talented economists in schools and I don’t think the issue is serious enough to be a brain drain. Furthermore, having established professors move to the private sector, gives young professors to show their abilities and thoughts better. For instance, many young professors refrain from contradicting senior professors given their seniority and power. But with some senior professors gone, the young faculty will be less pressured and be able to express his views.
Finally, I just hope that there are more publications using private/ proprietary data from these tech firms. Of course, many researches will be proprietary but I hope after some time has elapsed, these projects are shared with the public so we all can have a better understanding of the world.
NYT article also discussing the increase in hiring of economists. I expect that other non-tech companies will also follow. Large international firms will also follow this trend. I am just concerned about HR stopping economists doing some research that otherwise they could have done. For instance, Amazon HR prohibiting researcher publishing a paper about the potential negative effect of aggressive online retail would be a loss to society.