IT industry shrinks as employer in past decade

Manufacturing, telecom jobs take hit, while software services gains

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Some IT operations are becoming less labor-intensive, said Kazmierczak. "You can have massive data centers and a very low number of people who are actually employed there," he said.

The shift to higher value work is also reflected in the tech industry's compensation rates, Kazmierczak said. Those rates have generally gone up.

For instance, the average annual salary for high-tech manufacturing jobs rose from $83,900 in 2009 to $88,600 in 2010, for an increase of 6%.

In software, the average annual salary rose 2%, from $93,100 to $95,200, during that same period. The average annual salary for tech jobs across the board for all IT categories rose 3% from 2009 to 2010.

Wages vary by state. California, for instance, has the highest average annual tech salary, $110,600.

Unemployment rates in 2010 ranged from 6.4% for computer programmers to 4.7% for software engineers, according to the report.

The Cyberstates report looks at tech employment in each state. The leading employer remains California with 931,000 tech jobs, followed by Texas with 456,500, New York with 294,700, Virginia with 277,600 and Florida with 267,000.

States that lost jobs last year included Illinois, which saw a decline to 6,400 tech jobs, according to the report. These cuts are having an impact on the job market.

In Chicago, Ilya Talman, president of IT recruiting firm Roy Talman and Associates Inc., said employers are being careful about filling positions -- they're vetting candidates over a period that may last months.

"The perception is that the market is very tight and [therefore] these people are going to be around," said Talman. "The urgency is not there," he said, noting that companies "are still interested in hiring, but they are not in a hurry."

Jerry Irvine, the CIO of Prescient Solutions, an IT services firm in Chicago, has been trying to filling some open positions but he said it's difficult because he's looking for people with multiple specialties, such as someone who is both a Microsoft and Cisco certified engineer.

"People with lots of experience are employed," said Irvine, and the recession "is scaring people from looking."

Whether another recession sends IT employment downhill remains to be seen, but Dan Cobb, vice president for enterprise solutions for Yoh, a technology staffing firm, said he's seeing some changes.

Companies cut IT staffing after the dot-com crash, and there was another round of cuts in 2008, Cobb said. But employers also realized that these IT cuts were having a big impact on their operations and they will therefore be more cautious in the future. Organizations have also taken a more incremental approach to hiring, "which I think will make [IT] more stable," he said.

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

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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