Tech jobs increase, just barely, in the first month of 2011

Trend shows shift toward business skills, contractors

The IT job market has been more resilient than most during the past two years, losing fewer than other functional job sectors, but showing a slower recovery as well, according to new surveys.

The 103,000 jobs added in the U.S. during the past month took the overall unemployment rate down from 9.8 percent to 9.4 percent, according to the U.S. Dept. of Labor.

That increase brought only an additional 3,500 IT jobs, however, increasing IT jobs by 0.09 percent, though the increase from last year was 2.6 percent, according to TechServe Alliance.

Though the economy lost 250,000 IT jobs during 2008 alone, IT was hit less hard than other sectors according to studies from Robert Half Technology, the IT hiring division of employment-services gian Robert Half International.

Workforce analyst firm Foot International found more of an increase -- 9,600 jobs -- though many were in the Management and Technical Consulting categories with the Labor Dept.'s figures.

That may reflect a shift from straight technical skills toward more of a mix of business-operations and technical responsibilities, the Foote report concluded.

That could indicate that the skills for which companies are willing to pay are not always the ones out-of-work IT people have.

It could also show that the technical slots companies require are being filled by contract or temp workers, or that many end-user companies are hiring cloud, email- or other applications-management, SAAS and other companies to take on specific tasks rather than hire IT workers full time.

Either way, IT is following a slightly slower growth curve than the general economy, and that the destination will be an IT economy in which corporate IT roles have shifted significantly from where they were a couple of years ago.

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

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