Stimulus could boost IT job prospects

Analysts suggest that IT pros look hard at where federal stimulus dollars will be spent

The outlook for IT jobs in 2009 may not be as bad as some observers suggest. While some indicators and surveys are showing some declines in tech jobs, none predict a precipitous drop. In fact, a federal economic stimulus package may even add IT positions.

"IT jobs are relatively safe in the aftermath of the economic meltdown compared to jobs in general," said David Foote of Vero Beach Fla.-based Foote Partners LLC, which analyzes IT wages and hiring data.

While 853,000 U.S. jobs in all industries were lost in October and November, 9,000 were gained in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics categories of "Computer Systems Design and Related Services" and "Management and Technical Consulting Services," said Foote.

The IT job market is stable, said Foote, "because a lot has happened to show businesses that IT is really our edge."

Robert J. McGovern, CEO of JobFox Inc., a career site in McLean, Va., is bullish in the belief that hundreds of thousands of tech jobs will be created from the federal stimulus of hundreds of billions of dollars that's expected early next year from President-elect Barack Obama's administration and Congress.

Major chunks of that federal money may be used to build infrastructure such as roads and bridges, and for expansions of broadband, especially in rural areas, he said. IT pros should focus on showing employers how their skills can be adapted to projects in these areas.

For example, construction companies and engineering firms will likely seek multiple IT skills, including computer-aided design and telecommunications. Companies focused on alternative energy and health care modernization will likely need IT pros who specialize in bioinformatics, information security and software development. "Target your job search in those directions," McGovern suggested.

Regulatory compliance may also be a source of new jobs, he said. The Obama administration is expected to quickly expand regulatory controls, especially in the financial services industry. The industry's response could be similar to its actions after Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. That law, enacted after a series of securities scandals such as the spectacular failures of WorldCom and Enron, drove demand for integration and Web skills.

Some of the hottest areas for jobs over the next two years, according to Foote, will be business analysis, financial and human resources applications, program management and application development.

McGovern believes a stimulus measure could have a fairly rapid impact on new hiring. "What employers need more than anything is confidence," said McGovern. "They have the open positions, but they are reluctant to fill them."

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