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IT Is Hiring, But Just Barely

The IT hiring forecast for the coming quarter isn't all doom and gloom, but it's not a bed of roses either. According to IT staffing specialist Robert Half Technology, a net 2 percent of CIOs anticipate adding IT staff in the coming quarter, compared to a net 8 percent increase in Q1. That's the most striking result from the company's latest IT Hiring Index and Skills Report, which -- like its predecessors -- is based on feedback from more than 1,400 North American CIOs.

Fully 83 percent of IT chiefs expect to maintain their staffing levels. Among those who plan staff reductions, most cite IT budget cuts as the culprit.

On the hiring front, IT pros with help desk/technical support and networking skills continue to be most in demand. Desktop support, in particular, is seeing huge demand, outstripping even network administration, which -- for two quarters running -- held the in-demand top spot.

IT chiefs in the U.S. Mountain region say they're most optimistic about adding new staff; approximately 10 percent anticipate doing so. Not all IT chiefs, however, plan to add new employees on a full-time basis. Fully one-fifth expect to hire a mix of both full-time and contract workers, while nearly one-tenth plan to hire just contract workers, according to Robert Half. Add it all up and the IT staffing outlook is a mixed bag.

"Not surprisingly, companies are being more judicious when hiring in today's economic environment," said Dave Willmer, executive director of Robert Half Technology, in a prepared release. It appears that IT chiefs are getting back to the basics: "Budgets must support critical IT projects, and companies are re-examining their staffing needs accordingly. Among the areas where demand remains stable are help desk and technical support, and networking."

In spite of the unprecedented economic climate, a surprising number of IT chiefs expect to add jobs to meet growth demands. One-quarter of CIOs cited business growth as a key catalyst for IT staff expansion, and nearly 10 percent cited planned growth in their internal IT departments. Other drivers include increased workloads and planned system upgrades, both of which were cited by 8 percent of IT chiefs. Among CIOs who plan staff reductions, 40 percent blamed IT budget cuts, while another one-fifth cited the impact of the worsening financial crisis (specifically as it affects either their company or its primary industries).

Finally, Robert Half reports that about 18 percent of CIOs blamed "IT projects being put on hold and companywide layoffs" for planned job cuts.

What accounts for the surge of hiring activity in the Mountain states? Willmer and Robert Half include both intangible business needs and certain very tangible technology requirements. "The need to maximize efficiency and better utilize existing resources is driving hiring in the Mountain states," Willmer said. "Companies are seeking network professionals as well as those with experience in virtualization, .NET and PHP/LAMP development to help build upon or expand current applications."

Both the New England and West North Central regions should be hotbeds for IT job growth, too: IT staffing levels are expected to expand by 5 percent there.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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