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JobWatch: Canberra vortex sucks growth out of IT jobs market

While individual job agencies are reporting business as usual, the overall picture is not so rosy.
Written by Jeanne-Vida Douglas, Contributor

While individual job agencies are reporting business as usual, the overall picture is not so rosy, according to the January Olivier Job Index, published on Monday.

According to the report's author, Bob Olivier, the usual January downturn was felt more deeply in the IT industry thanks to a major dip in online job advertisements in the ACT.

"The overall number of job ads posted on the Internet was up 1.54 percent across the market in January, which is normal for this time of year," Olivier observed. "However, IT was absolutely flat, there was a little growth in some states but this was counterbalanced by a sustained fall in ads coming from the ACT."

Reluctant to read too much into the monthly figures, Olivier said the overall trend had seen job ads plummet in the ACT throughout 2007, as government expenditure froze in the lead up to the November poll.

"Given that the Labor government is threatening to send in the razor gang, it's likely we're going to see less spending on IT rather than more," Olivier says. "The short- to mid-term prognosis is that demand for IT skills in the ACT is not going to do anything other than stay weak."

Olivier also highlighted a comparative softening in areas such as technical writing and systems administration, suggesting a fall in demand for these types of skills.

"It's a definite trend, and I'm not sure if it means these types of roles are gradually becoming extinct, or being effected by outsourcing and consolidation," Olivier said. "But there was strong growth in the area of software development, which represents over 40 percent of the IT ads generally, suggesting there is still energy in the IT sector."

On the ground, IT recruiters are also seeing lumpy growth across the states, and continuing strong demand for roles which cross the traditional IT/business divide.

"There are some big projects going on leading to healthy demand across networking and engineering skills, and we're still seeing strong demand for project management and business analysis skills," offered Patrick March, national practice leader for IT and T, of recruitment agency Hudson. "Good market knowledge is always highly prized, strong communication skills, as well as an understanding of business are the sorts of things that are deemed to be highly valuable by recruiters."

And while the IT jobs market remains buoyant overall, the IT recruitment industry remains vigilant as clouds gather on the horizon.

"The general feeling is still one of positivity, despite interest rate rises, and recent events in international credit markets," offered Peter Noblet, regional director for Hays information technology. "There's a sense in the market that there is a lot of uncertainty about, although it all still seems pretty buoyant."

According to Noblet, ongoing shortages of skills in the IT sector have translated into more creative work arrangements, rather than a push for increased wages, a trend which, if sufficiently widespread, is likely to be well received by the Reserve Bank.

"A lot of people aren't looking for massive increases in their wage when they change roles, at the moment they seem to be focusing more on finding an environment in which they are able to work effectively," Noblet observed.

Overall the news remains good for job seekers in the IT industry, especially those who've made an effort to polish their communication and business skills. However, ACT residents finding themselves in a bit of a rut might consider a move from the Bush capital to the boom towns like Darwin and Perth, where their skills will be more appreciated.

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