IT job picture remains bleak

IT job seekers should expect no relief through year-end, according to recent research reports that offer little hope of increased budgets and that say more jobs will be lost to overseas outsourcing.

The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. surveyed 100 IT executives about forecasted spending and the results showed about half of respondents reducing IT spending throughout 2003. Spending projections in April dropped to a negative 3 percent from a dismal 1 percent growth in February.

The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) reports that demand for IT workers continues to drop. According to the ITAA, 400 hiring managers surveyed said they would only look to fill 493,000 positions over the next 12 months – down from 1.6 million at the start of 2000. Sixty-seven percent of the 400 managers surveyed nationwide said they thought the demand for hiring would remain the same or decline in the next 12 months.

Perhaps more disturbing for U.S. workers is evidence that more companies plan to outsource IT functions to overseas locations. The ITAA found 22 percent of respondents have moved work offshore, and 15 percent have opened operations overseas. Another 19 percent were undecided about whether to move their IT duties outside of the U.S.

People3 Inc., a research firm that tracks IT employment and compensation, also notes the trend toward outsourcing.

“From an employee standpoint, there will always be some concerns, but right now, outsourcing to me is a big one,” says Diane Berry, managing vice president for People3.

Recent People3 research shows IT turnover, positions and pay have stabilized for the most part in 2003, but hiring managers are still challenged to find candidates with specific skills. The top five difficult-to-hire positions are database administrator, Internet/Web architect, network architect, network engineer and security analyst.

Berry says hiring managers expect candidates to have IT and business skills. People3 advises job seekers to brush up on behavioral and business skills and to keep their technical skills up to date while job searching.

Separate research from Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. shows U.S. workers being without jobs for an average of about five months – the longest average duration of unemployment since 1984.

Some displaced displaces workers have taken part-time jobs or returned to school. Debbie Joy, director of next-generation networks for the Western region of Unisys, experienced this firsthand during her eight-month search for a full-time IT position. She worked full-time for part-time wages while also searching job listings for senior-level positions in the Phoenix area. With about 500 candidates responding to every listing, interviewing became frustrating.

“They wanted someone that could be an executive and speak to the board in one hour and also be able to go and install firewalls later that day,” she says. “The only reason I got this job was because I knew the hiring manager, and she called me when it opened up.”