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IT hiring shows gains, but jobs may be shifting

Broad trend remains positive for tech

January 11, 2011 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - WASHINGTON -- For tech workers, hiring and wages improved at year end, mirroring last month's overall gain in employment.

The U.S. Labor Dept. said that the economy added 103,000 jobs overall, and led to an unemployment rate reduction from 9.8% to 9.4%, a broader trend that also appeared in tech hiring.

For tech, there is no one analysis of labor data that provides as clear a picture as the national summary. But there are several surveys that, while they may not use the same numbers, do agree on an improving trend.

TechServe Alliance, an IT services industry group that analyzes U.S. Labor Department unemployment data, said the tech employment added 3,500 workers, or .09%, bringing the overall IT workforce to 3.9 million.

At its peak more than two years ago, tech employment was at 4 million. The year-to-year gain was 2.61%.

In its analysis, Foote Associates, a workforce analyst firm, counted a net gain of 9,600 in IT-related jobs, mostly in U.S. Labor Dept. categories of management and technical consulting services and computer system design and related services. Through October, 26,000 jobs were created, Foote said.

David Foote, the company's CEO, believes that the federal government's data isn't reflecting the true size of the tech workforce or the changes in the hiring patterns, and believes that there may be as many as 20 million "hybrid IT/business professionals." They include people who do statistical analysis, predictive analytics, forecasting, among other occupations that don't fit neatly into a traditional IT category.

"There are hundreds of other newly-defined IT skills and knowledge permutations for which IT/business hybrid jobs are being created to replace many IT jobs that were lost over the last three years -- and that aren't coming back," Foote said in a statement.

Meanwhile, national staffing firm Yoh Services, which broadly tracks wages trends in IT, life sciences, engineering, health care, aerospace, and defense, said hourly wages jumped 4.31% from November to December.

The Yoh sample is based on a temporary technology labor pool of more than 1,000 businesses and more than 5,000 technology workers. This information is gathered 13 times annually, in four week cycles.

Yoh said this gain was a signal that tech wages had bottomed out to four year low of $29.81 an hour, in September. This low compares to $31.55 an hour in December.

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

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