Technology Consultants Lead Rapidly Growing IT Market: Dice

The unemployment rate for technology professionals steadied in the fourth quarter at 3.3 percent, less than half the national average.

Although much of the rest of the U.S. (and world) job market seems stuck in second gear, opportunities in the IT sector are rapidly expanding, as more tech jobs have been created in the three and a half years since the end of the Great Recession than under the same recovery timelines in either 1991 or 2001, according to the latest report from online IT career specialist Dice.

The largest component of those job gains is technology consulting, which added another 21,100 positions in the fourth quarter of 2012 for a total of 80,500 positions for the full year. Partly offsetting those gains were job losses for the year in manufacturing of computer and electronic products (10,100) and data processing and hosting (1,600), despite gains in the latter category during the fourth quarter.

The unemployment rate for tech professionals steadied in the fourth quarter at 3.3 percent, less than half the national average, which improved to average 7.8 percent in the quarter. In comparison, the IT sector unemployment rate stood at 4.4 percent in the first quarter of 2012. However, the strong jobs recovery in technology hasn't translated into more willingness or the ability of workers to leave their jobs, the report indicated.

During October and November 2012, 388,000 employees in professional and business services quit their positions on average, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report cited in the Dice study. While that's up slightly from the third-quarter average of 378,000 per month, it is still well below the 10-year average of 405,000.

"In the first two months of the fourth quarter, layoffs and discharges in professional and business services averaged 380,000," the report noted. "That's the very first quarter in 2012 where the pattern broke or the only quarter when voluntary departures were higher than layoffs in professional and business services."

Demand for developers remains strong, with the hiring of Java/J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition) developers at the top of the priority list, with more than one in five of the 77,000 jobs posted on Dice containing some mention of the need for Java expertise. According to a separate Dice report issued earlier this month, demand for mobile developers is also strong as businesses look to make applications for an increasing number of smartphones and tablets finding their way into the hands of consumers.

"With smartphones, [Apple] iOS, [Google] Android devices and apps on a fast upward trajectory, mobile development skills should continue to see skyrocketing demand as we move toward mid-decade," report author and Dice Managing Director Alice Hill wrote. "In a marketplace where talent is the ultimate desirable, finding, hiring, keeping and evolving that talent often can make or break an organization."