InfoWorldIT job market stuck in a slow-hire rut

By Serdar Yegulalp | InfoWorld

IT jobs are on a climb, but the sluggish overall pace reflects what might be the new normal for the economy in general

With labor force participation still at a 30-year low of 63 percent and the overall unemployment rate at 6.7 percent, it's a miracle any new jobs are added to the IT market at all. But according to Janco Associates, that miracle has in fact been happening -- just not fast enough.

Over the past month, says Janco in its newest IT job market report, around 5,000 new jobs in IT were added to the economy, with 13,500 added in the last three months and 78,400 added total over the past 12 months. But what little optimism could be gleaned from this picture has to be tempered by a closer look at the data.

Net Change in Number of IT Pros Jobs - February 2014

Net change in number of IT jobs

Labor Force Participation - 6 Year History

Labor Force Particpation Historic Trend

For one, the new jobs are mainly in a few "selected technical areas," as Janco puts it. Security is one such area, and it will likely remain in demand as the pace of high-profile hacks and warnings about security issues continue unabated. Unfortunately, demand for qualified security folks in IT is much higher than supply. Cyber crime itself is also believed to be an economic drain, with one estimate putting the annual cost of cyber crime in the United States at $100 billion and 500,000 jobs.

12 month IT Job market gains

Another select area identified in the report is IT support for environments that use BYOD, as they tend to require their own distinct support solutions.

Meanwhile, some mildly positive overall economic news was released last week by the Labor Department, hinting that hard winter conditions rather than an underlying slowdown was responsible for weak numbers in December and January. Some of that is reflected in Janco's CIO surveys on hiring plans for various classes of IT employees. Two areas are predicted to show growth: short-term hiring (within 30 days) for middle management, and long-term hiring (within 12 months) of IT executives.

But no such gains are predicted for IT staff in general. In fact, the CIOs polled are predicting staff layoffs within the six- to 12-month timeframe with no change in the numbers for contractors and consultants.

The Congressional Budget Office's recently released short- and long-term forecasts for 2014 are not optimistic either. The CBO is of the belief that the generally depressed level of employment participation, hiring, and earning will become the new normal, with economic growth stalled at around 2.1 percent annually.

It's not hard to see why the IT job market remains sluggish. Even with IT and high tech as two of the rosier spots in the economy overall, and two of the better markets in which to find or keep a job, their fortunes are still closely tied to the rest of the economy in which they reside.

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