How can you tell when the recession's over for IT? When they're hiring in Detroit data shows 9 percent increase compared to 2010, even in places you don't expect.

Credit: Image credit: Patricia Drury/flickr

It's not really clear how real the economic recovery is, especially in IT.

There are all kinds of reports showing how many IT jobs are open, how many geeks are unemployed and how many CIOs plan to hire during the next few months.

The only ones with hard data underneath them come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which doesn't use the same categories to measure IT people as IT people do to identify themselves, or their job prospects. does, though, and uses the number of IT jobs being advertised as an indicator of how many IT people are working and how fast (or whether) the recovery is actually getting anyone back to work.

It isn't perfect. A lot of companies post as "open" jobs that have been frozen for months, or that have been filled by a friend of a friend, right after the company does its due diligence by publishing the "opening" on its site or a Dice ad.

A lot of employers also change their minds, change the job descriptions, change the salaries or just never hire anyone at all, even after paying Dice to advertise the job.

Those factors change a lot less than the actual numbers, though, so comparing job ads from a year ago to those on the site now is at least an apples-to-apples comparison that should be a good metric of the change in the hiring market, even if it doesn't provide a perfect count of all the jobs in it.

So what's been happning?

Last year at this time (May 3, 2010), there were 69,070 IT jobs available, or at least being advertised as open.

This year (May 2), the number is 75,916.

That's a 9.1 percent improvement, year over year – about three times the average improvement in the overall job market during the past few months.

It's not consistent; Silicon Valley and New York recovered first, and fastest, according to Alice Hill, managing director of Dice.

"We're starting to see a lot of recovery in places like Pittsburgh and Detroit," Hill said. "The numbers are increasing overall and you can see the improvement moving from city to city. It's pretty widespread."

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