The conventional wisdom among economic forecasters says that the U.S. economy is entering 2007 in a fragile state. Economists polled by MSNBC.com see growth in the gross domestic product slowing to just 2.3 percent for the full year.
This pessimism, however, is not reflected in the employment picture for IT professionals. According to IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology’s latest “IT Hiring Index and Skills Report,” the first quarter of ’07 should see solid growth in IT hiring.
Sixteen percent of CIOs polled by Robert Half Technology reported they planned to add IT staff in the next three months, with only 2 percent anticipating cutbacks during that time. That net hiring increase of 14 percent is the highest the firm has recorded since the fourth quarter of 2001, and it is up 4 percent from the previous quarter’s forecast.
“2006 was the first overall good year we’ve had really since ’01 and even in ’01, it was more the first half of ’01 because we were already in a downturn, depending on what part of the country you were in,” said John Estes, Robert Half Technology vice president. “So, it’s been a long time coming. A lot of hiring managers were maybe a little reluctant before — they wanted to see some long term growth, and now they’re finally going, ‘OK, looks like things are good and are going to stay good for a while. Let’s move forward and add staff.’”
What this means for people working in IT is much more choice about where to go, and why, for perhaps the first time in years.
“It’s been a long time since a lot of these IT professionals have really been in demand like this,” Estes said. “When we call people nowadays and offer them a position, they’ve got multiple positions to choose from, whereas even this past year and certainly in 2005, if we called them, they might have had one other thing going on. It’s definitely turned into an employee-driven market, and you’d have to go back to the dot-com days — which seems like ancient history — to find (the last) employee-driven market.”
Seventy-seven percent of CIOs surveyed in the report rank Microsoft Windows administration as the skill set most in demand, which Estes chalks up to IT being in a growth mode now, particularly when it comes to staffing.
“When you’re adding head count, every new employee gets a PC,” Estes said. “Somebody somewhere has to add that person to the network, give that person write-and-read capability and set up user profiles. Combine that with Microsoft’s continual upgrades, and it’s almost like a perfect storm.”