Geography as IT Job Destiny

IT pros have a better chance of landing certain jobs in some cities than in others.

Of all of the promises of wireless advances-that workplaces will one day be unwired and employees will be able to work from anywhere at any time-they have done little to change the fact that it still matters where someone lives when he or she is looking for a job. In fact, it can matter quite a bit.

In new data released by Sapphire Technologies, an IT staffing firm, some significant patterns were found in the availability of technology jobs in different U.S. regions. More than half (58.62 percent) of all available jobs in Austin, Texas, were in software development, something that raised eyebrows even among Sapphire's recruiters until they looked more closely at the demographics of the city.
"We were surprised by how much software development opportunity was available in the Austin area. It's because there are a lot of startups in there, and these startups don't need as many higher-up people as they need employees who can help them develop software. Austin is a really young city with a decent [number] of colleges in the area; it's a cheaper place to live than other big cities, but it's growing because people are staying there after they finish school," Mike Giglio, a recruiting manager at Sapphire, told eWEEK.
The American Electronics Association, a high-tech trade association that also tracks IT employment on a state and regional basis, also noted the health of Texas' technology job market in its Cyberstates 2008 report, finding that Texas led the nation in IT job creation, having added 13,700 jobs the year before.
Chicago also had a predominance of a single type of IT job, according to Sapphire's findings, as project management positions accounted for 52.6 percent of job listings. Giglio attributed this to the large number of mergers that have occurred in recent years.
"Because of financial mergers, they need a lot of project managers, but these project managers are being asked to do more, including business analysis and change management functions. They're taking up almost three job roles," Giglio said.
San Francisco, where one might expect technical skills to rule the day, showed only a slight lean in that direction. The three most in-demand job categories were software development (18.9 percent) tied with project management (also 18.9 percent) and followed by help desk support (8.11 percent).
Tracy Lynch, external marketing manager for Sapphire, noted that software developers can have a range of skill levels, and can be doing very high- or low-level work, something Sapphire's data gathering didn't account for.
"A city with a lot of financial companies like San Francisco needs a lot of higher-level software developers," Lynch explained.
Software development also led the way in Tampa, Fla., (28 percent), Fort Lauderdale, Fla., (28 percent), the D.C. metropolitan area (25 percent) and Sacramento, Calif. (29 percent).
In another surprising job category dominance, one-third of the available IT job listings for the Los Angeles area were for desktop support, according to Sapphire's findings. As this is historically a job category with a lot of turnover, it wasn't surprising to see that there were many listings, but it was surprising that there were more listings than for any other type of technology work.
"I was surprised to see so much desktop support; I didn't realize how staggering it was. But I spoke to our Los Angeles branch manager and he said that the companies are so fast-paced there that if anything happens to the systems they are working on, they need it to be fixed right away, and staff their companies accordingly," Giglio said.