A total of 1,200 new information technology jobs were created in December – a paltry 0.03 percent increase from November – bringing the total to just over 4.52 million IT workers, according to TechServe Alliance, an Alexandria, Va.-based trade association for the US IT and engineering staffing industry.
While some would argue that any growth – no matter how small – is a good thing, it's symptomatic of something much more concerning to enterprise CIOs and the IT workers they're looking to hire.
"Actually, this is the 12th consecutive month of slowing growth in this sector," said TechServe Alliance CEO Mark Roberts. "But it's hard to be too concerned about (the declining growth) when you look at what happened with the December jobs report."
Last week, just about everyone was disappointed when the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that only 74,000 workers were added to nonfarm payrolls (and 1,200 of them were IT professionals) in December, well below the consensus forecast of roughly 197,000 new jobs. Despite this anemic growth, the overall unemployment rate dipped from 7 to 6.7 percent, a result of more people of all ages dropping out of the workforce altogether.
Engineering jobs managed to eke out a 0.13 percent improvement in December and only increased 1.4 percent for the year, adding 33,900 paycheck-receiving engineers.
So what's the deal with this stagnation and deceleration?
"It's a very large labor pool, so there are multiple reasons," Roberts said. "It's never one answer. Without question, the supply of talent is a major contributor as well as some caution in the latter half of the year. There also has been some policy gridlock in Washington that's contributed to this."
Among the various IT and engineering subsectors, the strongest growth (up 0.2 percent) was found in data processing and hosting jobs while computer and electronic product manufacturing jobs declined 0.2 percent.
"Our clients, many of which are Fortune 1000 companies across all industries, tell us there just aren't enough of the right kind of people," Roberts said. "There is no question for certain skill sets, there simply aren't enough people. End of story."
He said companies are especially struggling to find mobile software developers, Java and .NET developers and anyone with expertise in mobile security.
"We're hearing chatter that 2014 is likely to be stronger and it's really a confidence thing," Roberts added. "We're anticipating 2014 will get stronger as the year unfolds but on the supply side, it requires a much longer-term fix. You don't just mint new supply."