Dice: U.S. IT hiring set to rise in 2011

Six in 10 hiring managers and technology recruiters expect to do more hiring in the first half of 2011 than in the previous six months, according to the latest Dice.com report on IT hiring plans.

Dice surveys human resource managers and recruiters of technology professionals across the U.S. every six months, and its parent company Dice Holdings also conducts surveys, the most recent of which indicates "slow gradual recovery in the labor market," said Scot Melland, chairman, president and CEO of Dice Holdings, which operates the Dice.com IT and engineering jobs and recruiting services website.

Nearly half of the almost 850 respondents in the most recent Dice.com survey say they expect to increase hiring by at least 10% in the first half of 2011, with another third expecting increases of 11% to 20%, and 15% forecasting hiring 21% to 30% more technology workers.

Developers are in high demand, notably those who do Java and mobile applications, with shortages of skilled workers identified in mobile application development, cloud computing, virtualization and "anything having to do with network or database security," Melland said.

Companies and recruiters are finding it challenging to recruit prospective employees who have the skill sets they need.

"That was something that was surprising and a very good sign for the future," he said, adding that 38% of respondents in the most recent Dice Holdings survey said that it is taking them longer to fill positions now than compared to this time last year, and 52% of those said that is because they cannot find qualified professionals. In past surveys, concern about the state of the economy was a bigger factor than an inability to find qualified job candidates.

"This [shift] is very illustrative of what's going on out there," he said of the current IT jobs situation.

Job postings also are up 38% year on year as of the beginning of December at Dice.com, he said, and the increases in listings are occurring across the U.S. "Tech is such a big part of everyone's business processes these days that it's really gone up around the country," Melland said of the job listings.

At the same time, survey respondents say that they are seeing, and expect to continue to see, more turnover in jobs, with more employees moving on to other opportunities, he said. The percentage of respondents to the most recent Dice.com survey who say that layoffs are not likely at their companies or at the companies they recruit for held steady at 66% the same as in the previous six-month survey.

Even though the latest overall U.S. unemployment figure rose slightly to 9.8% and many people focus on that aggregate number, Melland suggested that "the real story is what is happening in the detail." Business and services jobs, including IT jobs, increased by 53,000 in the last U.S. Department of Labor report, and the unemployment rate for those in IT was at 5.2%. "That's well below the 9.8%," he said, noting that the technology figure has remained in the 4% to 5% range throughout the recession and early months of the recovery.

IT tends to rebound more quickly than other sectors and the Dice figures indicate that is what is occurring, Melland said.

With job prospects opening up and shortages of skilled workers looming, he said that his company is advising employers that "they really need to up their game. It's been an employer market for the last couple of years," but that is changing and "the pendulum is now swinging back" so that prospective employees have more options. "So [companies] have to spend more time and energy and, probably, money recruiting," he said.

And because 52% of respondents said they expect salaries for new hires will be the same as last year, companies also may need to look at increasing pay to be competitive in a fiercer market for skilled IT pros, the Dice.com survey found.

Dice's advice to those who are job hunting remains largely the same as in the past. "The very first thing we always tell people is to be flexible in terms of location." Especially in technology jobs, if there isn't an opportunity in a local market, there will undoubtedly be opportunities in other regions. "If you're flexible on location, chances are you're going to find something that fits you very well."

IT workers who are unemployed might also consider getting more education and training in the high-needs areas to increase their marketability.

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