Jobs by numbers

It goes without saying that the most important of the job statistics is whether or not you (and partner) have a job.

Beyond the immediate yes/no answer to that, come measures of satisfaction bound up with levels of challenge, variety, skills and knowledge growth, career path and security. These matters are addressed by the oft-maligned discipline of human resource management - which in too many organisations is resourced no further than a hiring and firing function.

Overlaying the pros and cons of the current job are questions of the future of the IT department in the face of outsourcing and so called utility computing (but this is not a one-way street, with at least one large institution I'm aware of now working through a major ‘insourcing' reversal). In fact, uncertainty extends to whether that many superannuated full-time permanent jobs will even exist across the board in the long term. Little wonder there's a lot of unsettled employees out there right now.

Conflicting job market messages don't help. One of the most surprising arrived last week, headlined ‘Information technology recovers a massive 22 per cent'. According to the EL Executive Demand Index, July saw a 22 per cent rise in demand for IT executives, rounding out three consecutive monthly gains for the industry. This growth was way ahead of the 7 per cent drop in executive demand overall, according to publisher of the index EL Consult. Following this missive was a message headed ‘Wall Street shudder flattening Australian jobs', from the Olivier Internet Job Index showing "a fall of 1.2 per cent in July, with 62,745 jobs advertised on the net, 793 fewer than in June."

However, Olivier noted "some good news for the IT&T sector with a mere 0.4 per cent fall in jobs advertised... [which] compares dramatically with a 12-month drop of 60.6 per cent." Olivier boss Robert Olivier reckoned that "IT professionals are like a skier coming off a steep downhill run onto the flat. The question is whether they still have to negotiate a slalom, or a cross-country run to get to their next job."

So there you have it, the IT job market is either at flat bottom, still edging into a gully, or growing strongly, depending on which index you view. At least statements of ‘flatness' correspond to overall job market indices like the ANZ job advertisement survey now registering minor monthly declines in the number of job ads in major metropolitan newspapers.

The problem with ‘flat' is that it doesn't offer many jobs if you're out of work or that much opportunity for career growth in new projects if you now have a job. There's always the opportunity to prove how you can do more with less, but you probably already have that skill covered. It fits that bright spots in vendor-land involve companies that sell the means to extract more value out of current infrastructure. My prediction, based on meeting various industry execs on a regular basis, is that hang-tough time will last at least another year.

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