A raft of finish-the-year-happy hiring surveys are predicting the IT jobs picture will improve during 2011, but the contradictions and inconsistencies among them quash the enthusiasm a bit.
A survey from Computer Economics said almost half of IT managers responding to a survey plan to hire full timers in 2011; a Robert Half Technology study says 10 percent will hire and 5 percent will reduce headcount.
Companies are getting more of their IT work from outsourcers, cloud providers, VARs and contractors, so they don't have to rush to hire new people even when they have a moribund app dev project revived, according to John Reed, executive director of Robert Half Technology.
Most companies are hiring slowly and deliberately, spending enough time on the interviews and background check to make sure any new candidates hit the ground running and not rushing to make a final offer, Reed said.
Management and IT hiring consultancy Janco Associates Inc. estimates the total number of IT people employed in the U.S. increased only 0.17 percent in November. Its analysis is based on the December 2010 National Employment Report from the U.S. Dept. of Labor.
"This has not been enough to absorb the displaced employees from prior periods nor address the issue of recent entrants into the IT job market who cannot find work," according to a quote from Janco CEO M.V. Janulaitis in the statement announcing the study. "There is little to no room for recent computer science graduates and existing un-employed IT professionals to find work."
On the other hand, hard-core tech companies are having a tough time finding enough people with the right skills to hire.
Michael Dell is complaining publicly that his company can't find enough people to hire and is insisting the American educational system be improved to make sure graduates have the skills he needs.
Siemens Industry, the U.S.-based edition of German Siemans AG has 2,000 job openings in the U.S. -- mostly in engineering and IT -- and is also having a hard time finding people to fill those skilled positions.
There is plenty of freelance work, in IT and other specialties, but rates have been dropping since 2008 and it's hard to negotiate for better money when "e-lance" Web sites put together bad gigs and (very unskilled, very poor) contractors for virtually no money at all.
It ends up being a mixed picture. The overall trends, though, in hiring, salaries, IT budgets and almost everything else except, probably, the public supply of Top Secret State Department diplomatic cables, is going to increase during 2011.