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Sluggish IT Job Market Predicted for Next 6 Months

Given recent U.S. employment trends, analysts are predicting a weak IT market for those looking for a new job.

Experts that crunch U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) numbers are starting to form their opinions about 2016's IT job prospects. They are weighing in after analyzing April BLS data (PDF). Depending on the source, the April BLS data showed either an uptick in IT job prospects relative to prior April months or the start of a general downward trend compared with 2015 IT job results.

The somewhat optimistic side was taken by Foote Partners LLC, a Vero Beach, Fla.-based IT analyst firm. The firm reported in a May press release that 24,800 U.S. tech jobs were added in April. That result represents "the highest monthly job growth in more than eight years," according to the announcement. However, Chief Analyst David Foote noted that a single month's results didn't necessarily signify a trend. He expressed caution about the future, saying that it takes three months of solid job gains before tech labor analysts can give the thumbs up sign.

Moreover, the average monthly growth trend so far this year is down when compared with 2015 numbers.

"Despite the latest numbers, the 11,875 average monthly job growth in 2016 still trails 2015's 12,300 average/month by more than 400 jobs," Foote Partners' announcement stated.

On the slightly more pessimistic side, Park City, Utah-based consulting firm Janco Associates Inc. found just 23,700 new IT jobs were created in April. On a year-to-date basis, there were 26,200 fewer IT jobs this year compared with last year, per Janco's analysis in a May press release.

"There is an acceleration in the rate of slowdown in the IT job market," said Victor Janulaitis, Janco's CEO, in a released statement. "If this continues, as we think it will, there is a probability that there could potentially be a net decrease in the size of the IT job market in 2016."

Janco's interviews with more than 75 CIOs on hiring prospects for IT staff suggested flat hiring prospects over the next six months.

According to Foote Partners, most (98 percent) of the U.S. IT job gains in April were attributed to the BLS job categories of "Management and Technical Consulting Services" and "Computer Systems Design/Related Services." The losing job categories for April were the "Telecommunications" and "Data Processing, Hosting and Related Services" segments, which together represented a 3,100 job loss.

However, Foote Partners noted that the BLS' old job categories and methodologies haven't been accurately tracking technology jobs. In particular, some growth areas aren't getting represented.

"The one caveat in our analysis is that BLS data only reports approximately 40% of the true IT labor market," Foote stated. "They fail to adequately track and report hot job market segments in cloud computing, mobile computing, Big Data analytics, cybersecurity, certain areas of software development and engineering like the hot digital innovation space, and a large portion of hybrid IT-business positions that do not generally reside in the IT department but instead are distributed throughout companies in administrative areas, functional departments, and products groups for example."

Foote Partners sees those specialized segments as areas subject to "aggressing hiring."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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