Fed report: IT labor crunch easing

Employers in certain metropolitan areas said they are having an easier time finding qualified IT workers, according to a Federal Reserve Board report issued this week.

Although the Fed survey, known as The Beige Book, acknowledged that the labor market remains tight, it cited less job-hopping, reduced turnover, layoffs and slowing demand as factors contributing to an easing of the IT skills shortage. The Fed publishes The Beige Book, which tracks business and economics condition around the country, eight times per year.

In Atlanta, "the recent upswing in layoffs has largely brought the job-hopping phenomenon of the last two years to an end," the report said, while in Memphis and St. Louis, high-tech companies have cut more than 400 jobs. Although some IT jobs in these areas remain unfilled, turnover has slowed.

Employers in Philadelphia, Richmond, Va., and San Francisco attributed the hiring slowdown to a scaling back on new business activities by companies in the Internet, telecommunications and other technology sectors. Demand for IT specialists has also declined in Boston.

Meanwhile, the report said, pressures to increase wages have declined, although health benefit costs are rising. The Beige Book noted that companies are relying less on other types of compensation, such as stock options and signing bonuses. In Atlanta, "the hype of stock options has died," while in San Francisco employers have "reduced or eliminated signing bonuses," the report said.

In more than a half-dozen cities -- Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas and San Francisco -- employers noted a larger pool of available workers.

For example, Maggie Yunker, human resources manager at San Francisco-based consulting firm Gobosh Inc., said that finding qualified IT workers on Monster.com's job board has become much easier than it was a year ago.

For instance, last year when Yunker wanted to hire someone with a specialized Cisco certification, she had to look beyond the U.S. border and hire a foreign worker who held an H-1B visa.

"I know if I did a search [on a job board today], I could find somebody, whereas before, I knew we couldn't or had to hire a foreign worker," she said.

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Copyright © 2001 IDG Communications, Inc.

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