JobWatch: coding or customer care

The jobs market is relatively flat, unless you're a programmer or you work in IT support.

The jobs market is relatively flat, unless you're a programmer or you work in IT support — the two biggest growth areas in ICT, according to the latest figures from seek.com.au.

In March 2011, 14.5 per cent of jobs in the ICT sector were for developers and programmers. Last month, it grew further, to 16 per cent. Help desk and IT support jobs have shown similar growth, from 8.8 per cent a year ago to 10.2 per cent last month. Demand for business and system analysts has fluctuated, but remains high at 10.8 per cent.

ICT job trends in Australia.
(Credit: Phil Dobbie/ZDNet Australia)

The biggest hit has been felt by program and project managers. They accounted for 10 per cent of all jobs in January, but that dropped to 7.5 per cent last month. It could be an unusual month, or it could reflect a tendency to delay big projects, given the uncertain state of the world.

The continuing perilous state of the global economy — not helped by Britain returning to recession — has flattened the job market generally. The number of job ads across all sectors in March was where it was a year ago, supporting last week's figures from the ABS showing that employment is generally holding steady (around the 5.2 per cent mark).

ICT, though, has taken a slight hit. It's fallen from 13.3 per cent of all jobs advertised for the year to March 2011 to 12.8 per cent over the last 12 months.

Uncertainty makes people less prone to move, meaning less need to advertise replacements, but budget cuts could also be behind this trend.

Jenni Oliver at Stratagem Computer Contractors says that the market is particularly bad in Canberra, because of public-sector cutbacks. Yet, Peoplebank's Federal ICT Labour Hire Index paints a different picture, with Federal Government ICT hiring expected to hit an all-time high this year. The NBN is certainly helping, together with the pressure on all departments to whip their online operations into shape. Of course, this optimism could be destroyed by Swann's budget in May. "We are assuming most departments will cut contractors and IT spending," said Oliver.