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1/6/2012
03:39 PM
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U.S. IT Jobs Picture Improved In 2011

New government report shows growth in tech jobs and total IT employment nearly back to 2008 pre-recession levels. But fourth quarter data raises some concerns.

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Tech-related jobs in the U.S. grew 2% in 2011 and are now close to their pre-recession levels. And IT unemployment averaged 3.7% in 2011, down from 5.3% in 2010, according to data in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' year-end report based on surveys of U.S. households throughout 2011.

IT is faring better than managerial and professional workers overall, where unemployment in 2011 was 4.5%, down from 4.7% in 2010, according to the Current Population Survey data.

About 3.98 million people are employed in 12 IT-related job categories, the survey finds. In 2008, 4.0 million IT pros were employed, but that dropped as low as 3.78 million in 2009. The survey estimates the U.S. economy created about 83,000 IT jobs in 2011.

[ Some companies are looking to hire people with specific tech skills. Read Walmart, FT Go Shopping For Mobile Talent. ]

The year-end BLS report averages the monthly household surveys taken throughout 2011.

Looking just at the fourth quarter 2011 data, however, raises some concern. Total IT employment fell 5% in Q4 from Q3, from 4.1 million to 3.9 million. Such quarter-to-quarter shifts are not uncommon--2010 also ended with a Q4 drop, only to see jobs grow throughout 2011. And the 2011 Q4 employment total is still ahead of 2010 Q4. It's a trend to watch in the coming months.

InformationWeek's own Outlook 2012 survey, conducted in October 2011, suggests cautious hiring ahead. One-fourth of companies say they'll expand IT staffs this year, while another 36% are filling open positions. But 30% predict a continued hiring freeze, and 9% are cutting. However, more than half of companies say they're planning to increase IT spending over the prior year and just 16% say they're cutting. And 76% of companies say the demand for IT projects is rising inside their companies, while just 3% say it's dropping.

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hoapres
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hoapres,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/11/2012 | 4:07:10 AM
re: U.S. IT Jobs Picture Improved In 2011
The problem with BLS numbers is that they come from dubious sources. The definition of unemployment is dubious at best. The unemployment numbers can be changed easily as those that are "no longer looking for work" are counted as unemployed.

Having been involved in staffing projects, I don't see it getting more difficult but rather more easy to get qualified help. And the rates keep dropping.
TreeInMyCube
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TreeInMyCube,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/10/2012 | 9:55:41 PM
re: U.S. IT Jobs Picture Improved In 2011
I share some of hoapres's cynicism, but have a slightly different view of the BLS numbers. They are encouraging, I agree. But they paint with a very broad brush, or to choose another metaphor, they are so diluted across the various skill sets that there's very little substance left. When a company claims, "we can't find any qualified people," they are usually looking for specific skills, as well as years of experience using those specific skills. DBAs vs. web developers vs. project managers vs. system administrators. I'm encouraged that the overall trend arrow seems to have changed direction, but I'm still cynical that unemployed or underemployed US IT people will see much improvement in their prospects.
marcopolo2012
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marcopolo2012,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/10/2012 | 7:13:09 PM
re: U.S. IT Jobs Picture Improved In 2011
I have to agree with hoapres cynic in him/her because it is interesting to go to a meeting where there are 10 people attending and eight are from India, and only two are from the US.
hoapres
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hoapres,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/10/2012 | 7:15:15 AM
re: U.S. IT Jobs Picture Improved In 2011
Only problem is that BLS is hardly reliable. If you really believe IT unemployment rate is only 3.7% then I have a big bridge in Brooklyn for sale. The BLS has an abysmal track record on its 10 year predictions for IT. If you believe the 2008 to 2018 prediction then IT employment should have increased from 2008 to 2011 by over 20%. Clearly that has not happened. With regards to 3.7% unemployment that is dubious since the definition of "IT" is ambiguous. I can easily have an IT unemployment rate of 0% by simply defining that to be considered as a member of IT that you have to be employed in IT.

The cynic in me says that we are going to see more and more dubious claims of "Happy Days are here again" "We have a skill shortage", etc. to justify granting even more H1B Visas.
ANON1244058569006
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ANON1244058569006,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/9/2012 | 3:47:56 PM
re: U.S. IT Jobs Picture Improved In 2011
There are an additional 24 million IT professionals working in business lines, corporate departments, and all over the enterprise that the BLS numbers don't capture. These 4 million cited in this article are basically only those workers in traditional IT jobs. So this is a very incomplete picture of employment numbers for IT professionals.
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