IT hiring continues to improve, according to surveys

Employer confidence continues to be on the upswing, with refresh cycles for hardware and software helping the hiring picture

Hiring for IT jobs continues on the upswing in the U.S. and Canada as recessionary gloom gives way to cautious optimism, according to various recent polls of employers, who cite networking, security, virtualization and database skills as among the most sought-after.

"Overall, employer confidence is improving," said Tom Silver, senior vice president, North America, at Dice Holdings, which operates Dice.com, a technology and engineering careers website. "We hear that as we speak to our customers every day."

The most recent edition of The Dice Report, which heard from 600 respondents across the U.S. who hire or recruit technology professionals, found that 71 percent expect to add more employees in the second half of the year than they did in the first. More than half of that 71 percent expect to hire 10 or more new IT staff members. Likewise, CDW's IT Monitor has had similar findings in its surveys across the U.S. and in some areas of Canada.

The IT Monitor recently found that 37 percent of IT decision makers at large companies expect to hire more IT staff in the rest of the year, which is up 11 percentage points from a year ago -- the size of the increase was "a much faster jump than I would have expected to see," said Matt Troka, CDW vice president of product and partner management and acting CMO.

While the percentage jump could be "just in the timing" of the most recent IT Monitor survey, it follows expected spending increases for hardware and software that CDW has been tracking. Many companies delayed replacement and upgrade cycles during the Great Recession, which slogged on from the credit crisis at the end of 2007 until slow recovery started to take hold only recently. While the trend of increased IT spending followed by increased IT hiring has been found in the past, the most recent survey data shows hiring plans following "more directly" on the heels of spending, Troka said.

"I think the refresh cycle is a main driver here," Troka said, adding that CDW has found "huge growth" in networking in particular, spurred by companies replacing network hardware before this year is out.

CDW also found that 29 percent of respondents in the U.S. government sector expect to add additional IT staff, up 9 percent from April. Other recent survey results from firms that track IT hiring and spending show a continuation of the trends found in the first and second quarters. For instance, the Boston Globe in April reported on expected hiring increases at technology companies in the area as well as nationally, citing the need to add staff as product development and other growth plans move forward after being on hold during the recession.

Temporary hiring also is up, according to TEKsystems, a technology staffing and services company that collaborates with the Inavero Institute on a quarterly IT and Talent Survey. Twenty-nine percent of companies polled expect to add temporary IT workers this quarter, up from 23 percent last quarter, TEKsystems said earlier this week, citing its most recent survey. The survey included input from more than 1,000 CIOs and other IT decision makers in the U.S. and Canada.

"While the hiring of temporary and permanent employees is expected to increase over the next six months, the survey reveals that hiring permanent employees will outpace temp hiring, another sign of a stabilizing economy," TEKsystems said in a statement about its survey results.

"Stabilizing" may be the operative word.

"The market is better," Dice's Silver said, adding quickly, "it's not great." While the U.S. unemployment average for IT workers is at 5 percent compared to the national average of 9.5 percent, sluggish consumer spending and other shakiness continue in what is still a volatile economic situation. The "gradual improvement" noted by Dice and others that track hiring trends and statistics is most evidenced -- as expected -- in the larger U.S. tech centers, led by Silicon Valley, which has 70 percent more job postings at Dice.com than a year ago.

The Valley typically leads demand with other markets following -- there also are more job listings in New York City and Boston, with smaller markets such as Research Triangle Park, Chicago and Atlanta also picking up steam. The New York City job listings include a 24 percent increase year-on-year in IT positions open at Wall Street financial firms, according to eFinancialCareers, which also is a Dice Holdings company.

Prospective employees and those who held onto their jobs during the long months of economic turmoil may find the most promising sign is that 72 percent of Dice Report corporate respondents say that they do not expect any layoffs at their companies in the next six months.

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