Careers: IT Hiring Outlook Bright, in Spite of Economic Uncertainty

One fifth of lLarge companies expect to increase IT hiring in Q2

Every quarter, information technology staffing firm Robert Half Technology checks the vital signs of the IT job market, surveying enterprise CIOs -- more than 1,400 of them -- to get a feel for their hiring plans in the coming quarter.

In spite of looming economic uncertainty, Robert Half has good news for North American IT pros. More than 1 in 8 (14 percent) of CIOs expect to hire new IT workers in the coming quarter, while just 2 percent anticipate reductions -- a net 12 percent hiring increase, up two points from last quarter and unchanged from a year ago. According to the survery, 82 percent of respondents expect to maintain their current staffing levels.

Robert Half’s survey typically helps reveal what’s hot and what’s not, and this quarter’s sampling is no exception. For the third consecutive quarter, researchers say, the networking segment boasts the most overall growth, followed closely by help desk/end-user support positions. Paradoxically, in light of the gloomy economic outlook, technology executives at firms with 1,000 or more employees anticipate a small hiring boom in the second quarter, with a net 19 percent increase in staffing activity.

All in all, Robert Half reports, enterprises seem to be proceeding apace with their IT-related plans -- including those that entail significant capital expenditures -- even in the face of looming economic uncertainty. That’s good news for IT pros, the staffing specialist concludes.

“Companies are investing in new initiatives and technologies such as server and network virtualization; Voice over Internet Protocol; and feature-rich, Web 2.0-type Web sites,” said Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology. “As a result, there is heightened demand for IT professionals with experience in these and other emerging specialty areas.”

In general, according to the report, CIOs in the business services sector are most optimistic about hiring additional staff. Elsewhere, officials say, IT chiefs in the Mountain and West South Central states expect the strongest hiring activity. Just why are CIOs adding staff -- especially in the face of economic tumult?

Surprisingly enough, Robert Half reports, business growth is still a prime driver: nearly one-third (29 percent) of CIOs cited ongoing or projected business growth as the main reason for their rise in hiring activity. Other responses topping the list include an increased need for customer and/or end-user support personnel (19 percent) and system-upgrade activity (cited by 17 percent of executives).

Network administration looks to be the most in-demand skill set for the coming quarter, with 72 percent of CIOs citing LAN or WAN administration needs. Coming in a close second were Windows administration skills, which were cited by 69 percent of survey respondents.

Database management -- of Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server systems, especially -- was cited by two-thirds of CIOs surveyed as a hot skill they’re looking for.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.