Although the US economy has been grinding through a painfully slow recovery for the past three or four years, nobody’s ready to pull out the hats and hooters just yet. However, all signs are pointing at least modestly upward, and recent surveys of IT show increasing demand for IT professionals. Because IT is one of the engines that helps drive recovery, this just might mean that the upward arrow may be pointing a little more markedly upward in the months ahead.
In a recent story from CIOInsight entitled Demand for IT Pros Is On the Rise the Website marches through a number of observations gleaned from a recent Monster.com survey of 200-plus enterprise level employers who regularly recruit IT professionals. Demand is expected to show a slow but steady increase through the summer and into the fall, with a number of interesting other points to ponder:
- 82% of respondents consider themselves either “very likely” or “extremely likely” to be seeking out qualified IT candidates.
- Three fifths of that 82% (about 50% of all companies surveyed) of respondents indicate that they are hiring to add new staff, rather than replace existing staff.
- 45% of respondents (about 37% of all companies surveyed) said increasing IT headcount reflects overall company growth or expansion.
- The main job of new IT hires will be to deploy new applications for business use (about 60% of all companies surveyed).
- Database analysis and development is another major concern for companies that plan to hire IT pros (about 48% of all companies surveyed).
- Of the companies surveyed that do plan to hire IT talent, only half of them are confident they can find the right people to fill those positions (about 41% of all companies surveyed).
- Many hiring organizations report a skills gap, and claim “the number of qualified candidates... isn’t as high as it could be” (over 50% of all companies surveyed).
- This gap between skills wanted and skills available may be attributed to employers seeking specialized skills and knowledge that IT pros currently lack (over 40% of all companies surveyed).
- From the job seekers’ side of things another interesting gap also emerges: companies have trouble attracting new IT talent because they’re not paying what candidates are asking for (again, over 40% of all companies surveyed).
- Another potentially positive sign for IT Pros is that employers report lower signs of interest from prospective IT job candidates than they would like (same 40%-plus range of all companies surveyed).
- It is possible that those companies’ ideas (with the same around 40% of all companies surveyed) that IT jobs need to be outsourced outside the USA might somehow be related.
- The survey also reports the best job markets in the USA are on the East Coast right now, in NYC, Washington, DC, and Boston.
What does it mean when demand goes up, but employers claim they can’t find enough of the right qualified people to fill those jobs? I’m not sure it spells “strong relief” for IT sector employment, even though it’s better than a decline in jobs, an increase in the pace of IT layoffs, or a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, for that matter. I take this to mean that while demand for IT professionals may be on the rise, the rise is not meteoric enough for employers to feel like it’s a seller’s market rather than the buyer’s market that has prevailed since the downturn of 2008/2009. I hope that what will happen later this year, going into next year, is that the power will start to shift a bit more from the employers' side to the candidates' -- a shift from a buyer’s market for IT professionals, in other words, to a seller’s market.
As for the lack of qualified IT candidates, I have to see some wishful thinking on employers' parts, particularly when coupled with the report that job seekers want more pay than those offering jobs are willing to fork over. We’re all familiar with those infamous job postings that ask for more years of experience in a platform or technology than it has actually been around, or for highly improbably mixes of skills and knowledge. By asking for the moon, employers may be setting a high bar for prospective employees, but they may also be indulging in horse-trading techniques along the lines of “because you can’t do everything on the list, we can’t pay all of the money allocated for that position as advertised, either.” Job candidates unhappy with compensation offered may not always be seeking over the moon compensation, either, so this can be a sign that employers still believe themselves to be holding a higher hand in the game of IT recruiting than may actually be the case.
For myself, I’m inclined to see this as a clear sign that growth prospects remain weaker than any of us might like, and that a robust recovery still isn’t in the cards that employers and job candidates are all trying to play to their best advantage. My long-term mantra for the current situation hasn’t changed much in the past 5 years, nor does it look likey to change dramatically for the rest of 2013, at least: "Be calm. Stay put. Keep waiting for things to get better." If you do have to look for an IT job in the meantime, your prospects may be somewhat improved and your options somewhat broader. But we have a long way to go to see the balance of power shift from employers to job candidates. Far enough, in fact, that I don’t even want to speculate when (or if) such a tipping point might occur.
Ed Tittel is a 30-year-plus veteran of the , who’s worked as a programmer, a technical manager, a instructor, a network consultant and a technical evangelist for companies that include Burroughs, Schlumberger, Novell, IBM/Tivoli and NetQoS. He has written and blogged for numerous publications, including Tom's Hardware, and is the author of over 140 books with a special emphasis on information security, Web markup languages and development tools, and Windows operating systems.
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