IT job growth slows

The tech industry is often touted as a bright spot on an otherwise lackluster hiring scene, but one firm's analysis of recent employment data suggests it's not as vibrant as it has been.

IT job growth is slowing, and CIOs are becoming more cautious about expanding their workforces, according to Victor Janulaitis, CEO of Janco Associates.

The IT consulting firm analyzed the latest employment numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and found 3,200 IT jobs were added in December and just 400 were added in November. October was a strong month, with 8,600 IT jobs added -- but it came after a 4,700-job loss in September.

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In the big picture, the labor market participation rate fell to a 30-year low of 62.8%, which means across all industries, there are 3.3 million fewer people working than in 2007, Janco calculates. The overall labor participation rate continues to decline, which "does not bode well for IT expansion and hiring," Janulaitis said in a statement.

Based on interviews with 102 CIOs during the last two weeks, Janco Associates found companies are becoming more cautious about hiring. "Add to the employment data the [upcoming sequester cuts] and the uncertainties caused by the status of the recovery, it is easy to understand the reasons why prospects for an improved job market are not great," Janulaitis said.

Other sources, however, have been more bullish on IT hiring in recent weeks.

Robert Half Technology (RHT) reported that 16% of U.S. CIOs plan to expand their IT teams in the first half of 2014 (a gain of 5 percentage points compared to projections from the previous six-month period). Another 67% plan to hire only for open IT roles, 15% plan to put hiring plans on hold, and 2% expect to reduce their IT staffing levels in the first six months of the year.

When asked about corporate growth, 88% of CIOs told RHT they're somewhat or very confident in their companies' prospects for growth in the first six months of 2014. This compares to 86% who felt that way in the last half of 2013.

Executives from IT staffing specialist Modis, too, are reporting greater optimism.

"I wouldn't go as far as saying we're going to see one of the biggest boom years we've ever seen. I'm not so certain that's the case. But I think it's going to be a strong year" for hiring, says Jack Cullen, president of Modis.

"A lot of what we've seen in 2013 is what I suspect we'll see in 2014: Companies are still trying to figure out how to handle big data, how to find people with big data expertise, how to tackle security and how to tackle mobility. We're hearing a lot of the same themes," Cullen says.

Ann Bednarz covers IT careers, outsourcing and Internet culture for Network World. Follow Ann on Twitter at @annbednarz and reach her via email at abednarz@nww.com.

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