The IT job market shows some signs of improving when it comes to hiring in 2012, but most companies still aren't expanding.
Robert Half Technology, a national recruiting firm that has been conducting quarterly surveys of CIOs on the subject of hiring since 1995, said a net 10% of those companies surveyed plan to expand their IT departments next quarter.
"That is the biggest net increase that we've seen in the last eight quarters," said John Reed, executive director of Robert Half Technology.
About 1,400 CIOs were interviewed for the survey, the results of which were released Wednesday. Of those polled, 20% said they plan expand their IT shops. However, 10% plan cutbacks, thus the net gain in the number of employers that are planning to hire IT professionals is 10%.
But Victor Janulaitis, the CEO of Janco Associates, which will release its year-end survey of IT managers in mid-January, said he expects his survey to show employers holding back on hiring -- except in a few regional markets.
"Companies do not know what is going to be happening, and everybody has their brakes on," said Janulaitis.
With Robert Half showing only a 10% net gain in hiring, Janulaitis said it's possible that the findings of the two surveys may not be far apart.
Robert Half's forecast for hiring activity in the next quarter is still well below the levels of the pre-recession years. In December 2006, for instance, Robert Half's survey reported a net 14% increase in hiring, with only 2% of the respondents saying that they were cutting back.
The Robert Half survey also reported that network administration skills are in the most demand. Of those surveyed, 57% said they were seeking people with network admin skills. Windows administration and desktop support followed, with 56% of the respondents saying they planned to hire people with those skills.
When it comes to hiring activity in specific vertical industries, the Robert Half survey found that the most IT hiring is expected to take place in the retail industry; 17% of the respondents from retailers said they plan to expand their IT departments. Manufacturing was next, with 11% of the respondents from that sector reporting that they plan to add IT workers, according to the Robert Half Technology survey.
Reed said companies are seeing a lot of competition for IT professionals because of increased demand, but also because of a dearth of talent among people in the "lost generation" of computer science graduates that followed the dot-com bust.
The number of students enrolled in computer science programs declined by 50% in the years immediately after that downturn, and enrollment figures have only begun to turn upward again in the last few years.
Although a TechServe Alliance analysis of U.S. Department of Labor data shows a steady rise in IT hiring, the Labor data reflects what is going on at IT companies. Robert Half Technology surveys employers outside the IT industry.
Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.