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Technology Job Picture Fuzzy

Like other mixed news about the economy, the outlook for information technology jobs is cloudy. Surveys report contradictory findings.

July 16, 2009
Like other mixed news about the economy, the outlook for information technology jobs is cloudy.

On Monday, July 13, advisory firm Computer Economics said layoffs among IT workers are accelerating. The Irvine, California-based firm said its survey of more than 200 IT executives found that 46 percent of all IT organizations plan to reduce headcount this year, compared with 27 percent that are increasing headcount.

But the downbeat study comes amid other, positive reports about the technology job market. Last month, staffing firm Robert Half Technology said that for the third quarter of this year, 8 percent of chief information officers plan to add IT staff, while 6 percent plan personnel cutbacks. Robert Half Technology’s report was based on interviews with more than 1,400 CIOs from companies across the U.S. with 100 or more employees.

Also last month, research firm Input analyzed the Obama administration’s federal technology budget for the year beginning October 1. It concluded that double-digit IT budget increases are requested for six agencies, including the Commerce Department and Veterans Affairs.

Rick Albert, co-founder of Gaithersburg, Maryland-based IT services firm MicroServe Consulting, said he expects his staff to jump from 12 to about 30 by the end of the year.

MicroServe’s pitch to help small and midsize businesses save money and improve IT service levels is working in the recession, said Albert.

“Our expectations are that this year will be better than last year,” he said.

Conflicting reports on the technology job sector add to a muddy picture of the economy overall. U.S. job losses in June outpaced those in May, reversing several months of improving payroll job declines. And in early July, the International Monetary Fund said the global economy is beginning to pull out of a recession, but “the recovery is expected to be sluggish.”

The United States’ IT labor market has long been a controversial topic, tied as it is to heated debates about the need for guest-worker visas.

The jumbled outlook for technology jobs could be seen recently in an announcement from job board giant Monster Worldwide. Last week, the New York-based company said it was opening a new technology center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and recruiting for about 80 technical positions there. But it is also eliminating about 160 jobs within its product and technology group globally, including roughly 50 positions in Maynard, Massachusetts.

Last month, Robert Half Technology said CIOs in the transportation, communications and utilities sector are most optimistic about hiring. It also said staff-level technology professionals are in greatest demand.

In its report Monday, Computer Economics said 27 percent of IT organizations report their staffing levels will remain the same as last year.

“Last year at this time, we reported that IT organizations were focused on reducing capital expenditures but resisting layoffs,” John Longwell, director of research for Computer Economics, said in a statement. “That’s not the case this year. However, we don’t think IT layoffs at the typical organizations are any more severe than in other parts of the labor force.”

—Ed Frauenheim

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