Optimism is in the eyes of the beholder. Most IT employment experts see good news on the jobs front, but their take on the outlook varies. Consider analyses from research and advisory firm Foote Partners and online career and employment site Dice.com—both sanguine about IT employment but for different reasons.
To David Foote, chief analyst at Foote Partners, "momentum is everything." IT jobs have been on a "strong and sustained growth run" since February 2012. By Foote Partners' calculations, January IT employment showed its largest monthly increase in five years, and the momentum is so powerful that it is likely to continue—barring a severe and deep falloff in the general economy or a catastrophic event, he explained.
Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, Foote estimates a gain of 22,100 jobs in January across four IT-related job sectors, in contrast to average monthly employment gains of 9,700 from October to December 2012. January's jump brings the number of IT jobs added to the U.S. economy in the preceding 12 months to 132,300, according to Foote.
Most of the growth Foote tallied was in two segments under BLS's IT services umbrella—management and technical consulting services, and computer systems design and related services. Two other categories Foote factors into its IT jobs estimate—BLS data from the telecommunications, and the data processing, hosting and related services segments—together showed a five-year record but, combined, posted a net loss in jobs over the past 12 months.
More modest were estimates from Dice, which uses BLS figures on computer systems design and related services in its calculations of a 5.5 percent increase in jobs for all of 2012 but just 0.3 percent growth from December to January. Still Dice remains sanguine about the employment picture.
“This has been a really good market for tech, with low unemployment and a strong demand for the highly skilled," Dice.com Managing Director Alice Hill wrote in an email. "A testament to companies trying to attract these hard-to-find tech professionals is the fact that tech salaries saw the biggest jump in a decade, up 5 percent year-over-year."
Dice points to other key findings from a survey it conducted recently: 64 percent of tech professionals are confident they can find a favorable new position in 2013; tech bonuses were more frequent, with 33 percent of respondents earning the annual payout at an average of $8,636; and less experienced tech pros earned their first year-over-year increase (8 percent), to $46,315, in three years.
"Companies are now clearly paying to retain their talent—whether through merit raises or internal promotions," Hill wrote. "Hiring managers and recruiters should know it's the tech professionals' market and they can be choosy about picking positions."
Whether IT jobs growth is experiencing stellar momentum, as David Foote sees it, or "steady, modest growth, not a snowball gaining speed into an avalanche," as Hill stated in a report late last year, a seller's market is a seller's market. Job hunters with the right skills should have the upper hand.