IT slowly hiring back after layoffs

Tech lost more than 200,000 jobs during recession

WASHINGTON -- The IT industry shed employees last year at a much faster pace than they are now hiring them, but at least the industry is hiring.

The employment hole that the tech industry created during the recession is deep. Since January 2009, tech companies have shed 215,000 jobs, says TechAmerica Foundation, an industry group.

But in the first six months of this year, tech employers added 30,200 jobs (net) to their payrolls after shedding 143,000 jobs over the same period last year.

The report puts total IT employment, including manufacturing and services, at 5.78 million.

John Longwell, vice president of research at Computer Economics, said the workers being hired by the tech firms are not just technology people but could be in sales, marketing and distribution. His company tracks technology buyers in retail, manufacturing, banking and other sectors.

"Those sectors that are feeling the early stages of the recovery are hiring, but we expect IT organizations overall to continue to run very lean through the remainder of this year," Longwell said.

He said these firms "are not laying off workers, for the most part, but they do not have plans to hire."

In the first half of the year, employment among technology companies held up well compared with retail, government and other struggling sectors, said Longwell. "That is not a surprise, but that really does not say anything about how well the domestic economy is doing at present," he said.

Andrew Bartels, an analyst at Forrester Research, said that the employment numbers are consistent with the market. The vendors are seeing revenue increases, but it's mostly on the sale of computer equipment, PCs and servers -- not people-intensive services.

"Companies have been very, very cautious about hiring employees, especially permanent staff," said Bartels. Users are investing in technology, particularly automation, as a way of avoiding hiring, he said.

Offshore firms are also benefiting from this reluctance to hire full-time employees, Bartels said.

For example, Bangalore-based Wipro Technologies Ltd. added 4,854 employees for the quarter that ended June 30, on revenue that grew 16%. Infosys, also in Bangalore, added 1,026 employees on a 21% revenue gain.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS 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 e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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