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Job seekers flood IT staffing site

Large numbers of IT workers are signing up to fill growing number of contract jobs

December 17, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Last month, about 20,000 people signed up looking for jobs on oDesk Corp.'s online staffing marketplace, which links job seekers with employers offering contract work. It was the largest monthly increase -- by at least 40% -- that the company's CEO, Gary Swart, has seen since joining oDesk in 2005. Swart said says he expects another 15,000 people to sign up this month.

At the same time, the number of contract jobs advertised on the site has doubled over the past year to approximately 4,600, Swart said.

The increase may be a sign that like outsourcing, contract work may be countercyclical in a troubled economy. "We're seeing companies that are trying to do more with less," said Swart. There are now 157,000 providers, or work seekers, on the site. About a third of those are in the U.S.

At the same time, the National Association of Computer Consultant Businesses said that overall IT employment declined in November by almost 34,000 jobs compared with October. Overall IT employment for the month stood at about 3.87 million, the Alexandria, Va.-based organization said last week.

Employers that use Menlo Park, Calif.-based oDesk typically advertise for help on a specific project. Most jobs on this site are IT-related, including Web and software development and network administration. There are also projects seeking audio and video, graphic arts, and writing skills.

The oDesk workers are located around the world, and its hourly rates reflect the economic differences among countries. For example, average hourly rates for all jobs average $12.52 in India, $6.33 in the Philippines, $16.86 in Russia, and $18.32 in the U.S.

Swart says the varying pay rates and a declining economy has not placed downward pressure on pay rates in U.S. and other higher-wage countries. The average U.S. hourly rate has not changed in a year, and pay for developers has increased from $19 to $27 an hour because of strong demand. Some firms are looking for workers in specific time zones, but the most important criterion for many employers is the worker's rating, Swart said. The company provides an eBay-like rating system in which developers with strong recommendations can earn many times more than average rates.

Robert Scheier, a managing director for sourcing advisory services at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said that the use of outsourced IT services is growing in the U.S. Application development and maintenance are the most popular services sought, and he noted that some companies are also looking for expertise in infrastructure outsourcing, which may involve remote monitoring of data centers, and business process outsourcing.

"Businesses are undergoing a massive drive to bring down their expenses," said Scheier.

Read more about IT Careers in Computerworld's IT Careers Topic Center.

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