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IT jobs will grow 22% through 2020, says U.S.

March 29, 2012 03:11 PM ET

BLS critics

Ron Hira, an associate professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, said the BLS IT forecasts have been wildly wrong in the past.

"Volatile occupations tend to be subject to bad forecasts, and it's clear that computer occupation employment levels are very hard to forecast," said Hira.

"The forecasts are biased toward the most recent history in the occupation," he said.

Hira said he would place more stock in growth projections for a predictable profession. Citing primary school teachers as an example, he pointed out that the BLS can estimate the number of births during the decade and factor in teacher-student ratios to reach an estimate of employment growth.

The BLS has "no methodology to estimate technological disruptions that can increase demand for computer occupations," said Hira, citing the rapid increases in the use of the Internet and ERP systems as examples of IT disruptions.

David Foote, CEO of Foote Partners, an IT labor market research firm, scoffed at the BLS's projections and said they extended too far out into the future to be reliable.

In light of "current market volatility and uncertainty which is unprecedented," Foote said that anyone who makes a 10-year IT employment projection "is kidding themselves."

The projections don't take into account the rate of technological change, he said.

Foote said the BLS only identifies a "small group" of IT jobs and doesn't track the new kinds of technology jobs that combine business and IT experience to create hybrid professions. Much of that is being driven by the demands to find useful ways to apply use so-called big data in a business.

Sharon Machlis contributed to this story.

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 email address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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