IT jobs lead the February fall of online job advertisements according to the latest Olivier Job Index, released over the weekend. For the first time in three years Internet job ads actually fell by a seasonally adjusted 5.9 percent. While sectors like mining and engineering bucked the trend, IT jobs were ahead of the downward curve, slumping 7.11 percent.
"The fall is not unexpected given a string of interest rate rises, recent falls in consumer and business confidence, uncertainty regarding what's going to happen in the government sector, and what is happening in the banking sector," suggested the report's author, recruitment specialist Bob Olivier. "There are so many factors working against employment at the moment, so we were expecting a softening eventually."
And while IT overall fared poorly, within the sector results were lumpy. Sharp falls in management and sales roles, contrasted with a slight increase in advertisements for development and engineering roles, suggesting vendors and the IT industry generally are responding conservatively to a rocky economic outlook.
"The difference between the growth in technical roles versus a fall in sales and management positions is interesting, it means that IT companies still have a lot of projects underway, but they are holding back on employing more people to go out and source new contracts," Olivier offered. "In a market like this one, a lot of companies are being conservative about how much they invest in securing future work, as opposed to fulfilling contracts they already have running; they still need Indians, but no so many chiefs."
Moreover, taken in the context of the skills shortage, Olivier is keen to point out that the slowdown might benefit employers, without significantly prejudicing job seekers.
"A typical job seeker in IT might only be looking at one or two offers, rather than having to choose between three or more as well as a counteroffer from their current employer," Olivier said.
In a similar vein, Patrick March, national practice leader IT and T for recruitment agent Hudson, said the slowdown has barely been perceived in a recruitment market which has been running hot.
"We keep expecting to see a slowdown, but there's always more project work going on, especially at the moment in terms of telecommunications and infrastructure," offered March. "We're still seeing healthy demand for people with solid technical skills, and while it's not driving up companies are prepared to offer really good training and career development packages to win the right staff."
Industry insiders also suggest the fall in demand for sales and management positions reflects the underlying trend of international vendors overtly, or covertly moving their regional hubs from Australia to Singapore, while local project work continues unabated.
Others are heartened by the news that demand for core IT roles remains strong in the wake of a general downturn.
"I think the real news here is that there is enough activity in the IT sector to see a growth in demand for software development and IT engineering," offered John Ridge, ACS Foundation Executive Director. "While demand for management roles might be softening, it's understandable that a number of companies are holding back on investment and waiting to see what the new government will be doing. Maybe people are a bit cautious about forward investments, but there are clearly already enough projects to keep demand for those core IT skills flowing, so the news overall is still good."