Despite A Good Year, IT Workers Were Less Optimistic About Jobs In December

While job prospects for tech workers look solid for 2007, IT workers in December were less optimistic than in previous months, according to the latest monthly job confidence survey.
Tech pros were less optimistic about their job in December, despite 2006 being an overall steady and strong year for IT and telecom work and with 2007 job prospects looking solid, according to the latest monthly job confidence survey released on Wednesday by IT staffing and outsourcing firm Hudson.

Compared to a base score of 100, IT and telecom professional rated their job confidence in December at 109.8 -- which is strong, but 6 points lower than the 115.8 score recorded in November when optimism-levels hit a year-long high for 2006.

Some key drivers for December's relative soberness were worries among some contract workers that their gigs may not be extended into the new year, end-of-year reflections about job-satisfaction and greener pastures, as well as anxiousness about paying holiday bills, says Tim Bosse, Hudson executive VP of IT and telecom practice in North America.

In December, 22% of techies were expecting a reduction in headcount at their employers, up 8 points from November. Also, in December, slightly more techies -- 23% -- worried about losing their jobs, compared with only 21% in November. And while most -- 74% -- said they were satisfied with their jobs in December, that was 3% slide from November when 77% said they were happy with their jobs.

In reality, contract renewals were strong, yet IT workers worry "until they find out a project is extended," Bosse says. Also, in some sectors, especially financial services and investment banking, "the [work] pace slows down in the second half of December," which also fuels anxiousness among tech contractors assigned to projects there, he says.

Compared to 2005, last year was "very strong and consistent," for tech workers, says Bosse. While tech job optimism fluctuated dramatically during 2005, with a 20 point difference between the highs and lows of job confidence, in 2006 the ride was less rocky, with only a 13 point difference between the November high of 115.8 and the lowest rating, which was 103.1 in August, he says.

Overall, 2006 ended with an average tech job confidence score of 109.6, up 2.8 points from the 2005 average of 105.8.

Also, the 400-plus IT and tech workers Hudson surveyed in December were more optimistic than the 9,000 workers nationally across all sectors who participated in the study and rated their optimism level at 102.7, a drop of 2.6 points from November.

Looking ahead, 2007 is expected to be another steady year for tech workers, especially key talent such as project managers, data-warehousing experts, and ERP specialists, according to projections by tech staffing firms.

The maturity curve around some technologies -- especially around ERP -- has created a demand for very specific mixes of skills, says Jim Lanzalotto, VP of strategy and marketing at Yoh, a staffing and outsourcing firm.

For instance, while CRM specialists have been in demand for a few years, the sort of combined expertise companies are looking to hire are becoming even more specialized, says Lanzalotto. "Now, clients are looking for Siebel CRM experts who know the pharmaceutical industry and distribution channels," he says.

As for compensation, Lanzalotto expects pay for tech workers "across the board" to rise about 3.5% to 4% in 2007. However, strong talent with hot skills, such as SAP experts, could see pay increase "in the low double-digits," he says.

Finally, while Hudson's survey indicates that some IT workers were more worried about job security last month, a new report released on Wednesday by the Conference Board indicated that job vacancies in computer and mathematical occupations were the third most advertised online and second highest-paying in December.

Last month, there were online job ads for 273,700 vacancies in computer and mathematical occupations with an average hourly wage of $32.26.

The most sought after talent, according to the Conference Board analysis of online advertised vacancies, was managers, which were also the highest-paying segment. In December, the Conference Board found 383,900 online advertised vacancies nationally for manager positions, paying an average hourly wage of $42.52.