The reason I use July 5, 1999, is because that's the day InformationWeek ran a cover story with the following words on it: "IT executives are desperately searching for skilled workers to keep innovation on track and profits from declining." At that time, the Commerce Department had just come out with a report noting that the job growth rate for computer systems analysts, computer scientists, and computer engineers would exceed 100% for the decade ending in 2006. This meant that more than 1.3 million new IT workers would be needed to fill job openings and replace workers leaving the field in that time. The Society for Information Management said the labor shortage was the most severe it had been in 50 years, and the society expected it to continue well into the next millennium.
Fast forward to today. IT unemployment in September outpaced joblessness in the general workforce for the first time in more than a decade. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that one in 20 IT professionals is out of work. HotJobs.com says job seekers have increased 130% on its site this year. Some businesses report getting thousands of resumés for a single job posting. These are hard times, indeed.
Were the Commerce Department, the information management society, and others delusional a couple of years ago? Were talented IT workers crazy for taking advantage of the fact that their skills were in demand? Of course not. No one could have predicted such an about face, which was spurred by a weak economy and exacerbated by terror attacks.
But before I make everything sound entirely gloomy, let me add that there are bright spots. It may take some rethinking of lifestyle and salary requirements, or learning new skills, but there are industries and regions that are hiring. For more, see our story by senior editor Diane Rezendes Khirallah.