IT Job Market Intel - Cutting Through the Fog

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mike Meikle


A lot of hay has been made about the recent job market report. 192k plus jobs added for February and the rate of layoffs are now at pre-recession levels.

The unemployment number also experienced a nice drop to 8.9 percent. However, if you pull back the covers on the numbers a bit you find some disturbing data.

Job openings are down 30 percent based on pre-recession numbers, which translates to 843k less job opportunities.  Labor force participation is also the lowest since 1984 at 64.2% which is an ominous sign of folks just dropping out of the labor market all together.  If the participation rate was at the full 66.1 percent, unemployment would be 11.6 percent.

So with all the smoke and mirrors around the general job numbers, how does this translate over to IT professionals? Well, as of February, there were over 74k job IT job openings nationwide.  

About 60 percent of those openings are for full time positions (46k) and the remaining shake out to contractor slots.  Many of these current opportunities are located in the Midwest/West.  

A lot of growth predicted for Ohio, Seattle and Detroit oddly enough.  Of course D.C. remains a hotbed of job market activity, with federal funds still propping up the local economy.

Silicon Valley, normally the epicenter of all things tech, shed 12k jobs in January.  The forecast for the region looks anemic with a 10.8 percent unemployment rate.

Overall, the best places for employment during 2010 were North Dakota, South Dakota, Alaska, Arkansas and of course Washington D.C. So if you like your privacy and cold weather you know where to setup shop.  Or you can spend half your life on the Beltway trying to get to work in D.C.

So what are the hot skills (for this week) in IT? Since you are now going to move to North Dakota and become a PHP developer.  Well, VMware Certified Professional (VCP), Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), PHP, MySQL and Mobile App developer are all top trending skills for IT pros.

Since we know outsourcing is a looming specter that hovers in the mind of any seasoned IT employee, what skills are future outsourcing fodder? According to Baseline, Cloud Computing support (VMware), Network Administration, Mobile App developers, PHP, JavaScript, MySQL… Yes basically the same “Hot Skills” for this week are next quarter’s grist for the Outsourcing Mill.

Speaking of looming specters, according to an article in CIO Insight, IT professionals can expect a 2.3 percent increase in salary for 2011.  So if you are making the average $78k you get less than a $1,800 bump in pay.  Not even enough to pay for the next big certification class since your company stopped paying for training.  Fantastic!

Of course there is an interesting footnote to this, it seems that IT talent poaching will be experiencing an renaissance.  Back in the late 90′s, this was a common occurrence as firms competed for scare IT talent.

Once again, IT pros are going to have to develop significant business skills to set themselves apart from their mono-technical peers.  While you may be able to capitalize on the Hot Skill Du Jour for a while, and we all have, it will continue to pay diminishing returns.

Cross-posted from Musings of a Corporate Consigliere

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