Business & Finance
03:20 PM

You Call Yourself A Manager? Well, You're Not Alone

Does it feel as if a lot more people in your IT shop are walking around with a "manager" title these days? You're not imagining it. Managers now make up 10% of the U.S. IT workforce, up from less than 7% in 2000, and manager jobs outnumber those in categories such as IT support specialist and network or data-communications administrator.

It's all part of a tumultuous, continuing realignment of what IT pros do--with more managers and engineers and fewer programmers--that's reflected in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' year-end employment survey. Another big finding: The United States had respectable IT job growth, breaking four years of meager growth or declines. IT unemployment dropped to 2.9% last year, with 3.5 million IT people employed. That's back to the high-water mark of 2001, before companies slashed hundreds of thousands of IT jobs.

Where The Jobs Are Going, bar chartIT once again is looking like a healthy profession in the United States. The 2.9% unemployment rate, down from 4.3% in 2004, is more than 2 percentage points lower than the overall workforce's 5.1%. The IT labor pool--everyone who considers themselves IT workers--grew 2% from last year, to 3.6 million, just shy of its 2001 high.

From 2000 through 2005, the number of IT managers in the United States grew by 123,000 jobs to 351,000, the only category that rose every year. Remove managers from the picture, and IT employment fell by 79,000 in five years. The bulk of the lost jobs are computer programmers and analysts, whose ranks thinned by a stunning 254,000, mostly because of increased use of packaged applications, offshore outsourcing, and the end of year 2000 remediation. The United States did add about 17,000 programming jobs last year, a 3% increase, the first time since 2000 that the category didn't fall. The annual statistics are based on 12-month averages of Bureau of Labor Statistics surveys.

Managers Oversee Outsourcers
Outsourcing is a big reason management ranks have risen. "The more you outsource, the more management you need," says Joel Koppelman, CEO of Primavera Systems Inc., a maker of project-management software. "If you send work offshore, you are obligated to provide a lot more definition of what it is you want."

Business-process outsourcing of functions such as human resources and accounting may actually increase IT-management payrolls, since some companies assign an IT manager to help administer these types of outsourced services. "IT has to provide the infrastructure to make the linkages that are needed between all the outsourced activities and their IT support," says Ken Kraemer, an IS professor at the University of California at Irvine. "That doesn't happen in HR."

Plus, these days teams as small as three IT employees can have a project manager, often coordinating with outside contractors and colleagues in other departments, as IT becomes more embedded in processes throughout a business. "A project manager isn't just interfacing with members of the project," says Hal Varian, a UC Berkeley professor of IS and economics. "He's also interfacing with the rest of the organization."

The largest IT employment category is software engineer, which accounts for 24% of the IT workforce, followed by systems analyst (22%) and programmer (17%), then managers. In 2000, analysts made up a quarter of the workforce and programmers 21%. The fastest-growing field has been database administrators, growing 35% the past four years, but it employs just 3% of the workforce. And it saw a slight dip in employment last year.

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