IT hiring increases last month despite broader jobs decline

Two indexes that measure IT employment trends find services firms doing most hiring

The IT labor market is showing signs of stability, if not growth, according to separate indexes released by two firms that analyze monthly U.S. employment reports to determine job gains and losses in technical occupations.

Most of the recent hiring was found to be in IT services-related occupations, an indication that many firms are turning first to contractors before adding internal staff.

The TechServe Alliance, an Alexandria, Va.-based industry group, said IT employment last month grew by 6,400 jobs, or 0.2%, compared to November. The year-end total stood at 3.82 million IT jobs, it said.

A year ago last month, IT employment was at 4 million, based on TechServe Alliance's monthly analysis of IT-specific occupation categories in government employment reports. Job were lost regularly until about June when the data began to flatten and alternate, roughly, between small declines and increases.

The alliance, which represents IT services firms and their clients, consultants and suppliers, believes that overall IT employment over the second half of 2009 "started to shows signs of growing as businesses begin to put delayed projects back on-line," it said in a statement.

Similarly, David Foote, who heads Foote Partners LLC, a Vero Beach, Fla., research firm that studies IT salaries and employment trends, said its analysis of five bellwether job segments showed a net gain of 7,600 jobs last month. Jobs in U.S. occupational categories of "management and technology consulting services" and "computer systems design and related services," accounted for 6,900 of those new jobs.

From October to November, there was a net gain of 20,500 jobs, according to Foote's analysis.

Foote, in his report, said the U.S. can expect to see hiring of technical and management specialists picking up further in the first quarter as demand for services expand. But Foote isn't expecting hiring to pick up in a big way for the IT industry until later in the year, "and more likely in 2011."

Employers "can more easily 'rent' those skills from contractors and consultant as they constantly struggle to recalibrate their IT labor needs," said Foote in his report.

Nationally, the U.S. today reported that December saw an overall employment decline of 85,000 jobs after increasing 4,000 in November.

Temporary services, across all occupations, which the White House called a "leading indicator of labor demand," added 46,500 jobs last month. The unemployment rate is 10%.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies; data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter @DCgov, send e-mail at pthibodeau@computerworld.com or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed .

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