The volume of searches for COBOL programming roles on recruitment platform Indeed grew 3.3-fold in early April compared to normal levels.
Renewed interest in COBOL jobs spiked following a plea from the governer of New Jersey, USA, who called on COBOL developers to come forward and help state authorities process unemployment claims during the Covid-19 crisis.
According to researchers at jobs site Indeed, the volume of searches for COBOL jobs on Indeed averaged 31.1 per million between April 2017 and March 2020, which increased to 102.2 searches per million earlier this month.
Similarly, Google Trends data showed an average interest of 27 on a scale of 1-100 between April 2017 - March 2020. This increased to an average of 86 in April 2020.
COBOL, which stands for Common Business-Oriented Language, was introduced nearly 60 years ago in the era of punch cards and mainframe computers. Despite its age, the language is still used on a large number of mainframe systems to perform payroll and banking transactions.
But, finding proficient programmers in COBOL has become much difficult in recent years.
In many US states, millions of Americans have filed unemployment claims in the past one month due to coronavirus-related economic hardships, which is putting immense pressure on unemployment claim platforms. Many of these platforms require changes to their existing COBOL account programme to run smoothly.
Earlier this month, Connecticut admitted that it was struggling to process the unprecedented volume of claims with its mainframe-based COBOL applications.
COBOL is also used in nearly 95 per cent of ATM transactions, according to an article by Reuters, which also claims that an "estimated $3 trillion in daily commerce flows through COBOL systems".
More COBOL programmers are therefore needed to get us through this crisis.
"It comes as no surprise that there has been a surge in interest in COBOL," said Simon Williams, CEO of NTT DATA UK.
"There are a lot of legacy systems in operation, reliant on legacy code. This has to be a wakeup call - if organisations don't have the skills to maintain their code, they need to modernise."
"This time has accelerated the realisation that half moving to digital is not enough. Whether it is moving off legacy code or migration to the cloud, businesses need to go fully digital. This also gives businesses the opportunity to update and modernise their systems."
Introducing VideoProc, a new video processing toolkit
Data orchestration can produce accurate, continuously updated, multi-channel customer insight for marketers
Global interest in AI is rising, but Brits are afraid that Brexit will hold us back
Hyperledger is key to blockchain avoiding the challenges of the IoT
But will all of that data be a problem when the GDPR hits?