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IT Employment Jumps For First Time Since 2008

The first significant increase in IT employment stats since the recession is surprising as the economy overall isn't producing large numbers of jobs.

U.S. IT employment was up an estimated 5% in the second quarter, a surprisingly large move that marks the first significant quarterly IT job growth since huge layoffs in late 2008, the Bureau of Labor Statistics' quarterly current population survey report reveals.

The spike puts estimated U.S. IT employment back over 4 million, and only slightly below the level it was in the third quarter of 2008, before a wave of layoffs as the recession hit hard. A major increase in the BLS IT employment stats comes as a big surprise, given that the economy overall isn't creating a lot of jobs. The BLS data has been prone to sharp quarter-to-quarter swings on occasion, including in the fourth quarter of 2008 when IT employment plunged by more than 6%.

IT unemployment remains high, at 5.4%, with 232,000 IT pros unemployed. The IT job improvement is surprising because management and professional jobs overall are still stagnant, dipping 0.7% the past quarter to 51.9 million. Though there are still many unemployed IT workers, the more than 4 million IT pros working is the third-highest quarterly IT employment figure in the past decade of BLS survey data. Only the second and third quarters of 2008 were higher.

InformationWeek Analytics' own recent survey found more companies focused on growth-oriented IT projects, instead of just cost cutting. (See our cover story on Return to Growth.) However, the data didn't predict a clear spike in IT hiring. Thirty-four percent of the 333 U.S. IT leaders we surveyed were looking to hire but only for specialized skills, and another 11% were looking to hire across many areas. Only 4% said they're more likely to lay off than hire. A third, however, still had a hiring freeze on.

These IT employment estimates are based on the BLS's quarterly report from its current population survey of U.S. households. InformationWeek totals the eight IT job categories the BLS tracks to report total IT employment.

The categories are IT manager; computer scientist and systems analyst; programmer; software engineer; database administrator; computer support specialist; network and system administrator; and network systems and data communication analyst. They include people who are self-employed. (For differing views on how we should classify IT pros, see our recent Global CIO column: "Is Everyone An IT Worker Now?")

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