Careers: Things Are Looking Up for IT Employment

Companies expect to hire more IT workers this quarter, but not as aggressively as they did in the first quarter of the year, despite their optimism about growth.

If leading economic indicators are correct, the U.S. economy is recovering nicely.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for example, the economy added 200,000 or more jobs in each of the last three months. The latest news on the IT jobs front is likewise bright.

U.S. enterprises expect to hire more IT workers in the coming quarter, although they don't expect to do so as aggressively as they did in Q1.

That's one upshot of the Q2 IT Hiring Index and Skills Report from IT staffing specialist Robert Half Technology. Like previous reports, it's based on a survey of more than 1,400 U.S. CIOs.

At first glance, the Q2 survey data seems less than encouraging, at least in light of the suddenly rosy projections about economic growth in the U.S. Robert Half projects a net 3 percent increase in hiring activity in the coming quarter, with eight percent of IT chiefs expecting to add IT workers; five percent anticipate making IT cutbacks.

In Q1, by contrast, Robert Half projected a net 10 percent increase in IT hiring activity.

If anything, IT hiring projections are down because most CIOs are holding tight. For example, the tally of IT executives who don't plan to make any changes to their IT rosters increased in Q2 to 85 percent; that's up almost one-fifth, on a percentage basis, from Q1's tally.

At the same time, however, CIOs seem optimistic about growth in the coming quarter: an overwhelming majority -- seven out of eight, or 87 percent -- described themselves as "somewhat" or "very" optimistic about Q2 growth. In addition, more than three-quarters (77 percent) said they "felt confident in their firms' second-quarter investment[s] in IT projects," according to Robert Half.

Positive growth is positive growth, after all, and following a period of near-double-digit unemployment, 3 percent isn't anything to sneeze at. "Although hiring in the second quarter isn't expected to be as robust as it was at the beginning of the year, the trend remains positive," said John Reed, executive director of Robert Half Technology, in a statement. "Those in hot specialties, such as networking and IT security, will continue to be in strong demand."

There are other encouraging indicators, too. For example, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of IT chiefs said they're having trouble finding skilled IT talent. The need for skills in certain functional areas is outpacing availability: CIOs specifically cited networking (16 percent of IT chiefs) and security (15 percent) as skills that are particularly in demand. Application-development (13 percent) and data-management (10 percent) skills are likewise prized.

According to Half, U.S. firms have an insatiable appetite for IT pros with skills or certifications in network administration: more than half (55 percent) of IT chiefs cited such a need. Database management or administration was next, cited by just over half (51 percent) of CIOs.

About the Author

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