JobWatch: ICT feeling the pinch

This week's data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows a big rise in the number of unemployed people, while data from job site Seek is showing that ICT could be struggling more than most.

This week's data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows a big rise in the number of unemployed people, while data from job site Seek is showing that ICT could be struggling more than most.

We're hearing a lot about job losses lately: retailers, manufacturing, banks. ZDNet Australia can now reveal that ICT is also taking a hit. According to Seek, the sector has decreased its share of the job market — from 13 per cent in December 2010 down to 12 per cent last month. That's less of a share of a reduced job market.

The Seek data shows that the situation has been particularly bad in New South Wales. Year on year, there was a 19 per cent drop in ICT job advertisements in NSW. Other states fell to a lesser degree (except Western Australia, which saw a massive 21 per cent hike in vacancies).

The latest figures from the ABS show that the NSW disease is mirrored across all sectors, not just ICT. Forty-two per cent of the NSW population are employed (down 1 percentage point from last year), whereas WA has held steady at 46 per cent. Across the country we've seen public and private sector jobs fall more than 3 per cent over the year, offsetting some of the job growth from the low point reached in 2009.

Don't be too despondent though. As the graph shows, if you can code you're as much in demand as ever. If you're in project management the future's also bright, but be prepared to work on contract. Job ads for business and systems analysts fell 32 per cent year on year, but it's still a much sought-after job category.

(Credit: Phil Dobbie/ZDNet Australia)

And looking ahead, the picture seems a bit rosier. The Hudson employment expectations survey, released this week, shows positive sentiment from hiring managers across the board, but expectations for the ICT sector were twice the average.

Recruiters are also generally optimistic. "The IT sector is still candidate poor," says Bernie Orrock at Task Recruitment. The only shortfall might be in government jobs. Jenni Oliver at Stratagem Recruitment says public sector cuts are definitely leaving their mark. "We are seeing fewer jobs and more people looking, although there is still a shortage of quality candidates, particularly in the developer/programmer categories," she says. But putting it in perspective, Jenni adds "It's nothing like the situation we saw in 2009."

Even the bad news of cuts in bank jobs doesn't seem to be upsetting prospects for IT specialists. Perhaps getting rid of your frontline staff means you need computers to work that much harder. This could mean even more jobs for business analysts, developers and project managers.

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