Contract and temp jobs may blunt IT hiring increases

Surveys agree on hiring upturn, not on how many are full-time jobs

All the surveys predicting what will happen to the job market during the final quarter of last year -- more specifically the IT job market -- predicted steady but slow recovery. reported that six in 10 companies surveyed planned to hire more IT people; forrester Research predicted a 7.4 percent increase in IT spending during the year, at least some of which would go for salaries.

Companies in defense, health care, finance, consulting and services all are looking for IT people this year according to the WSJ, which polled economists for the prediction that unemployment will fall from 9.89 percent to around 9 percent this year.

All that should mean more jobs -- more full-time, IT jobs based in the U.S.

Now it appears many of those jobs will be contract gigs or, in some cases, will be new jobs created overseas as part of outsourcing operations.

A survey from indicated that 24 percent of employers will hire full-time workers in 2011, compared with 20 percent in 2010 and 14 percent in 2009. Far more -- 34 percent -- intent to hire contract and temp workers to augment lean staffs. That number is on a steady increase, from 28 percent in 2009 and 30 percent in 2010.

Between 1990 and 2008 the number of people working for temp agencies grew from 1.1 million to 2.3 million and expanded into higher-skill areas such as IT, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Human Capital Institute estimates about 30 percent of Americans can be defined as "contract" workers.

Janco Associates estimated IT job growth was only .17 percent last year, and may actually have shrunk in data processing, telecommunications and entry level IT jobs. Many of the entry level jobs fell victim to outsourcing, the Janco study said.

So, if you're out of work or looking for a new gig, don't ignore temporary or contract gigs to focus on getting a full-time job. Even if the recovery ends up a lot less jobless than it has so far, the long-term trend toward contract work and away from full-time won't reverse in time to do you any good.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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