Big-company survey predicts cloud will cause IT hiring dip

Most other surveys disagree

The trend toward consolidation and outsourcing that is fueling vast growth in sales of virtualization products and cloud computing services may also slow growth in IT hiring during 2011, according to a new study from research and consulting firm Hackett Group.

A Hackett survey of 185 U.S. and European companies with revenues of more than $1 billion predicts the total number of jobs in IT departments will drop .4 percent this year, following a 1.1 percent drop last year and 7.3 percent in 2009.

Part of the reason is an increase in IT productivity through cloud computing and outsourcing – both strong trends that so far haven't had a clear impact on what is still a slow hiring market for IT.

Computerworld quotes research firm Computer Economics as expecting IT hiring to remain flat except at large companies during 2011.

That picture is very different from most other projections of IT hiring for this year.

Recruiter Robert Half Technology expects 11 percent of companies to add staff during the coming quarter, while CareerBuilder expects 26 percent to add jobs.

Tech job-ad site expects half of all companies both large and small to increase hiring by anywhere between 10 percent and 20 percent.

Its job ads are up more than 40 percent compared to this time last year, though among the skills with the fastest-growing demand are virtualization and cloud computing – both cited as potential reducers of overall IT hiring.

The trend that has more potential to flatten IT hiring in the short term is the tendency of companies to hire temp or contract workers rather than full-timers.

It's an indication of the uncertainty of the recovery that all these surveys make the whole picture less clear, not more.

It will probably be the end of the quarter before we start seeing numbers that will establish a firmer trend for the year.

In the long term, it's hard to see how migration toward the cloud could do anything but reduce the overall number of IT jobs.

Migration that would have that kind of impact would take several years, though. It's unlikely to kill off hiring during the next six to 12 months.

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