The jobs situation for technology workers is rocky. It is reflective of the larger economic picture in 2010. Data put out on June from the Department of Labor showed an increase of more than 9,000 jobs. It is welcome news, especially for those who have found employment.
The bigger jobs picture, however, continues to be murky and unpredictable.
"The accent in the IT work force right now is on acquiring skills more than it is on hiring full time employees," said David Foote, founder and chief research officer of Foote Partners, an information technology analyst firm, in a July 3 research note. "Beyond the fact that it's more expensive to hire full-timers, it can take months to find the right person even though the number of unemployed workers is so large... This is stimulating interest in managed services, cloud computing, SAAS, PAAS, IAAS, contractors and consultants. It's also contributing to all this volatility in pay and demand for skills and people."
According to Foote, government figures for IT jobs are outdated as they only track 4 million workers; Foote estimates technology workers to number between 20 million and 25 million.
"The DOL data doesn't specifically identify millions of IT professionals working in business lines, corporate departments and in various enterprise strategic and operational functions," said Foote. "These jobs require skills well beyond technology; for instance, precise industry, customer, product, and solution knowledge and expertise.
"That said, we're still seeing this same see-sawing in our own broader jobs research, and also in the market for IT skills. With so much economic pessimism out there it is certain that this volatility will persist, thwarting any positive momentum that might show up from time to time."
The see-sawing has been intense. Most job categories the Department of Labor tracks have seen wide fluctuations. IT Services saw an increase of more than 10,000 in June; In May, that segment lost 700 jobs. Management and Technical Consulting has been on the same rollercoaster, losing 5,000 jobs in January, 3,400 in February, with gains of 2,100 total for March and April.
The Computer Systems Design category has also been a wild ride. After gaining 7,300 jobs in April, this category lost a total of 6,400 jobs in May and June.
What IT services and skills are in demand right now?
"What we're seeing is demand for IT services fueling very selective hiring in certain hot sectors including ERP, virtualization, security, SAN storage, business process management, Web platforms, and a few other applications development areas," noted Foote. "Basically job demand in the services sector will rise and fall throughout the remainder of the year based on when employers decide to the pull the trigger on spending budget allocations that have already been approved."