There are some signs that the IT labour market may finally be picking up steam. But corporate technology executives and industry analysts this week said most companies are likely to maintain IT staffing at or near current levels for the foreseeable future.
On the up side, since January Dice has seen a 35 % increase in the number of jobs posted on its online recruiting service for IT professionals. The total number of available positions has risen from roughly 20,000 to 27,000, said Scot Melland, New York-based Dice's president and CEO. He noted that the increase may be tied partly to companies using funds left in their annual IT budgets to buy new servers and upgrade their IT infrastructure technologies.
Demand for contract and temporary workers has also been on the rise, Melland said. "That's usually a precursor to full-time hiring — at least it has been for the last two or three recessions," he said.
Maria Schafer, an analyst at Meta Group in Stamford, Conn., said she is starting to see "a little bit of movement in hiring." She pointed to indicators — mostly increasing headhunter activity — that IT job demand may pick up in the first quarter of 2004. But, she said, "we're still pretty much in a wait-and-see mode."
That maps with survey results released late last month by Robert Half Technology in Menlo Park, California, which showed that 83 % of the 1,400 CIOs who responded don't plan to change their IT staffing levels during this year's fourth quarter (see story).
IT managers at companies such as San Francisco-based retailer DFS Group and Muscatine, Iowa-based HON Industries this week said they expect their technology staffs to remain constant for now.
"We have not laid off through this downturn, and we do not plan to start now," said Malcolm Fields, CIO at HON Industries, a maker of office furniture and fireplaces. But Fields also isn't looking to augment his IT staff with new hires either. "It is status quo for us," he said.
Others plan to add a small number of new workers. IT staffing at Drexel University in Philadelphia isn't expected to grow significantly during the fourth quarter, said John Bielec, vice president of information resources and technology. But Bielec does intend to hire one or two security specialists to manage Drexel's desktop firewall technology and install security updates on its systems.
Robb Good, vice president and director of information systems at Sundt Construction in Phoenix, said he plans to hire an entry-level Java programmer sometime in the next six months. Good created the opening for a programmer by eliminating a training specialist's position as part of a slight restructuring of Sundt's IT department earlier in the summer.
"Our strategy has been to develop more internal Web services applications and move away from specialized vertical market applications," said Good. Sundt's business hasn't been significantly affected by the weak economy, and Good said the company has had low turnover and no major IT staff reductions for the past seven years. He said he doesn't expect any significant workforce changes, either up or down, "for at least the next three years."
Melland said the jobs in greatest demand through Dice's Web site are programming positions for languages such as C++ and Java, especially at federal agencies and with government contractors that are seeking workers with high-level security clearances.