IT is shedding jobs--should you worry?

Summary:Recent IT employment reports have been grim. What does this mean for your employment situation?

Recent IT employment reports are foreshadowing a lot of this.
The August 1 Bureau of Labor Statistics employment situation report included the kind of gloom-and-doom that has become de riguer in this recessionary cycle: nonfarm payroll employment slipped by 51,000 jobs in July and the unemployment rate rose to 5.7, a full one percent increase in the last 12 months.

But buried within the report were some statistical punches that seemed aimed right for the technology gut: Employment in the information industry declined by 13,000 in July and by 44,000 over the past 12 months. Telecommunications alone lost 5,000 jobs in July.

The BLS report comes on the heels of two other reports bearing grim IT news. Two weeks ago, Gartner found that fewer IT organizations would be increasing their staff levels in 2008 than did in 2007, and those that would still anticipated a decelerated hiring pace. And last month, a survey of CIOs put out by Goldman Sachs found that the number of IT jobs would drop in 2009, and that IT contractors would bear the brunt of the cuts.

So what does this mean for you? I asked a few tech recruiters to tell us where they're seeing signs of hiring life.

Johanna Rothman, a blogger and author of "Hiring the Best Knowledge Workers, Techies & Nerds: The Secrets and Science of Hiring Technical People" says that IT job security in this recessionary cycle will come from being the kind of techie who wears a lot of hats.

"Hiring for people who are adaptable at several roles is up. So if you understand performance and databases, or financial systems and security, or some other combination of things, you are more likely to find a good job. If you've categorized yourself as a 'Java programmer' you are out of luck."

Curt Sterling, a partner at The Cydio Group, an IT staffing firm in San Diego, is more positive, saying he's had little trouble moving techies who had been laid off from companies reducing their workforce into sectors that are growing, such as wireless and technology infrastructure companies.

"We have found that although some banks and real estate related companies are reducing their workforce, in many other industries IT hiring remains strong.... If you have good experience and a Computer Science or related degree, you should be able to find work in IT pretty easily."

Audrey Chernoff, senior technical recruiter with the HCR Group, a New York-based recruiting firm says that even investment banks caught in the mortgage crisis are still looking for strong developers and architects.

"People who love to code. Right now I am looking for C#, .Net, Java, and C++ developers and architects. Even managers must be very hands on in this economy," says Chernoff.

So what can you pull from all of this? Though there has yet to be a job category that comes with a "no-layoff guarantee" (though if you find one, please, do share), there are clearly organizations that are still hiring. The safety of your IT job has to do with so many factors--such as your specialty, industry, the health of your employer, their view of the importance of in-house IT--but also the luck of having the specific skills a specific organization is looking for at a specific time.

How about you? Are you worried about the security of your current job?

Topics: CXO, IT Employment

About

Deb Perelman is a journalist in New York City with a focus on tech and the daily grind. Previously she was a reporter for eWEEK, leading the magazine and Web site's coverage of the issue and trends that affect IT workers.

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