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IT Hiring Trends—What’s Really Happening?

When examining the economy today, the outlook can seem pretty glum. Unemployment is at the highest rate it’s been in years, 7.2%1. Additionally, many major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, Detroit and Phoenix are listed in the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s fastest shrinking labor markets. However, even among this generally bad news there is a wide variance in the severity of this slowdown depending on elements like geography, industry or education level. For example, among college grads the unemployment rate remains relatively low at 3.7% and professions like education, government and health care remain steady2. There are even major markets like, Dallas, Seattle and Washington D.C. that are on Forbes Top 10 Job Growth List for 2009. 

The IT Reality
Not surprisingly, all the factors impacting the national outlook are also affecting the IT marketplace. IT professionals have not been immune to the economic deterioration, but the industry in general is faring better than most. Because organizations have been diligent in ensuring that IT projects support strategic business initiatives, there has been less inflated hiring resulting in less lay-offs in this slowdown and a continuous stream for ongoing strategic hiring. Additionally, as companies introduce Web 2.0 technologies into their current applications it is essential that they hire talent that can implement and sustain these initiatives. These reasons support why IT jobs have generally been increasing over the past year. Even with a dip in December, the NAACB IT Employment Index reported IT employment stood at 3,857,200, up 1.1 percent from this time last year3 and the unemployment rates for the majority of IT professions were well under the national average4.

While this is all seemingly good news for the sector, there is also the reality that there remains a shortage of IT skill-sets with a specific demand for workers with cross-over skills including business analysts and project managers. Many IT professionals think that possessing IT certifications is enough, but it is more important to demonstrate one’s business insight and impact on strategic business initiatives. Additionally, fewer undergrads are declaring Computer Science or Computer Engineering as a major, which will contribute to this on-going tight supply of top IT talent.

According to several industry surveys with IT executives (including Computerworld’s 2008 Vital Signs survey) some of the most in-demand skills are:

  • Business intelligence
  • CRM implementation
  • Database management
  • Desktop support
  • Network administration and telecommunication including general network administration network convergence, wireless and network security talents.
  • Programming and application development that supports emerging technologies, such as AJAX, .Net and PHP
  • Project management
  • Security
  • Virtualization / data centers

What Does All This Mean?
It is clear that even in these difficult economic times, the need for top IT talent remains. As organizations look for ways to run more efficiently, they will continue to depend on technology. Because companies have been rigorous in ensuring the IT projects they are hiring for support business objectives, the IT industry has remained resilient and forecast a strong future job prediction.  In fact, network systems and data communications analysts and computer software engineers ranked within the top five professions as the predicted fastest growing occupations from 2006 – 20165. And among the IT and computer related occupations only computer programming saw a decline in employment predictions in that same time frame6. As IT professionals look to make themselves more marketable, it will be critical to demonstrate a strong business acumen, valuable insight and technological expertise to remain competitive in a tight marketplace.

1, 2, 4, 5, 6: The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Published and Unpublished Data
3: December 2008 NACCB IT Employment Index

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