Still Hope For IT Job Seekers

Although recent layoffs and economic figures signal a gloomy outlook for IT job seekers, some candidates may find a few bright spots if they concentrate their job hunts in the right places.

Within segments of certain industries such as oil and gas, retail and financial services employers are still eager to attract IT talent.

With resource-intensive supply chain and customer relationship management projects under way, Longs Drug Stores Corp. in Walnut Creek, Calif., for instance, is looking to fill 15 to 20 IT openings, said Dave Klinzman, vice-president of IT operations.

“Our business is not driven by the tech sector and its ups and downs. It’s driven by the retail environment,” said Klinzman, who noted that the company’s hiring is affected by seasonal swings in demand. He said the company is currently looking to hire Unix administrators and Java programmers.

Though cost constraints have delayed hiring for some positions, the Chubb Group of Insurance Cos. in Warren, N.J., plans to hire “tens” of IT workers with specialized application development skills this year, said Gerald Giesler, a Chubb senior vice-president. These positions include midlevel Java developers and database administrators, he said.

But he said hiring is certainly less frenetic than it was a year ago. “We’re probably openly recruiting half as many [IT workers] as last year at this time,” said Giesler.

In the Houston area, the oil and gas, energy and consumer retail sectors are still hungry for tech workers, according to Shawn Galloway, a Houston-based senior recruiter at eCalton Inc., based in Vero Beach, Fla. Skills in demand include networking and Windows-based experience. But many of these positions are targeted at contractors, and IT workers “just can’t be as picky as they used to be,” Galloway added.

Recent workforce studies paint a somewhat muddy picture as to whether the economy is headed for a recovery. For instance, July saw a record number of job cuts, with 205,975 payroll positions pared, according to Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

But those numbers haven’t put a dent in the national unemployment rate, which remained steady at 4.5 per cent last month, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Though the economy isn’t headed for a recession, expect it to “remain sluggish for the next two quarters,” said Wes Basel, an economist at Inc. in West Chester, Pa.

Job seekers would do well to avoid technology and manufacturing firms, because they have announced the largest number of layoffs since the beginning of the year, the Challenger report said. “We’re not seeing a bottom right now” among companies in these sectors, said John Challenger, the company’s CEO.

Those industries are experiencing an inventory correction, along with a global slowdown in demand, said Basel.