IT Jobs' Volatility Mirrored by IT Skills' Volatility: Report

Despite some consistency in job gains in a number of technology job categories over the three months prior to May, research figures from last month show a more muddled and inconsistent picture. The cautious optimism on technology jobs from early in the year has shifted negatively and is clouding the overall IT jobs landscape.

Like the dips, curves and rapid fluctuations to U.S. stock prices, so go the figures on technology job gains and losses. There had been plenty of optimism in the air after government reports in April had shown gains of 8,800 technology jobs. Analysis of information technology jobs' figures for May has one technology research firm cautioning the positive vibes as it notes a 9,300-job swing to the negative.
"The volatility we're seeing right now is being driven by employers taking advantage of a window of opportunity to think through what has to be done and take calculated steps toward implementing new staffing models," said David Foote, chief research officer of Vero Beach, Fla.-based Foote Partners in a June 7 statement. "It's very hard to make big changes when things are going well. Enterprises often have to wait for periods of massive flux like this to get 'unstuck.' IT is being shoved very hard by the business to make significant changes in deploying people and skills."
Several categories of jobs tracked by Foote Partners saw job losses in IT services last month, including management and technical consulting (-700) and computer systems design (-300), as well data processing, hosting and related services (-1,300). Others saw gains, including computer and peripheral equipment (+700) and communications equipment jobs (+1,100).
"This unpredictability in certified and noncertified IT skills pay and demand, and in jobs as well, indicates to us that employers continue to be under pressure to strike a balance between market pressures and labor force costs well into our third straight year of economic downturn," said Foote. "We're seeing 30 percent to 40 percent volatility in our surveys of premium pay for certified and noncertified skills, which is defined as the percent of the 438 skills we survey that change in market value-up or down-every three months. And that's unprecedented in our tracking going back to 1998. Typical quarterly volatility falls in the 14 percent to 19 percent range."
Volatility in monthly jobs figures, however, does not mean hiring is not taking place. It means there are some layoffs happening as some companies are still adjusting their staffing models and shifting directions. One of the largest technology companies in the United States, Hewlett-Packard recently announced it will be eliminating 9,000 jobs over three years while adding 6,000 jobs over that same period.
Job vacancies as tracked and reported by The Conference Board showed an increase of over 18,000 postings in technology fields in May, making it the largest gainer in any industry, yet government figures released last week by the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics had technology jobs overall losing about 100 jobs.
"Employers are focusing on skills, not jobs, acquisition," said Foote. "Think managed services, cloud computing, SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, contractors and consultants, not full time hires. Adaptive, iterative execution, not bloated, stagnating project portfolios. High performance teaming, not reliance on the same exhausted IT superstar performers to get the job done time and again. Being great at operational stuff but having more impact in product development, ideas, innovation, and strategic areas that will help businesses survive and thrive in a brutally competitive, fast-moving global marketplace."
There is progress being made out there right now by some courageous but very nervous IT executives trying to engineer this transition. It's causing higher volatility in pay and demand for skills and people as the natural condition of a transforming workforce. This is the new standard in market behavior for years-not months-to come."