Tech employment and consulting at historic highs, government says

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows full employment for IT professionals, record hiring for service firms.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

Data out of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows IT unemployment has dipped down to 2.7 percent, well below the current average of 6.7 percent for all jobs. At the same time, IT consulting opportunities have been booming, breaking new records.

Conference crowd-Gaylord National Convention Center September 2013-photo by Joe McKendrick
Photo: Joe McKendrick

The BLS stats were surfaced by Dice, the online IT employment site, which finds that the technology unemployment rate fell to a recovery low during the first quarter of 2014 —2.7 percent. That compares to 3.5 percent in last year’s first quarter for technology professionals, "but is still above the record low of 1.8 percent that occurred in the second quarter of 2007," Dice reports.

An unemployment rate below 4 percent is considered by many economists to be "full employment," a point at which the pool of available workers has dried up for employers. That's when intense competition for skills really heats up.

One route to quickly acquiring needed IT skills, of course, is through consulting, systems integration or outsourcing services. These services also appear to be encountering more demand than they can handle. Tech consulting has been setting multiple records in this recovery in terms of workforce size, weekly hours and hourly earnings, Dice observes. "As per the BLS, in the first quarter, tech consulting added 17,200 new positions, bringing the workforce to more than 1.7 million."

"Computer systems design" jobs were the big growth area, while data center operations and computer manufacturing lost jobs.

The demand for IT skills has grown increasingly acute as organizations have sought greater big data analytics capabilities, along with the movement toward digital enterprises -- meaning more external, internal and hybrid cloud projects, mobility initiatives and business process restructuring. Employers are no longer competing against the company next door, or even companies in their own industries for talent. They're also competing with a robust and energetic startup scene, as well as enterprises from everywhere across the globe.

Here are some tips for attracting tech skills in today's competitive environment:

Support training and development: Talent may be right under employers' noses. For example, the next generation of data analysts and scientists may not only come out of university programs, but also from the ranks of existing IT and data management staffs.

Pursue new types of outsourcing strategies: Acquiring IT services no longer requires gigantic or even long-term contracts -- through APIs and cloud services, needed functions and resources may be immediately available online.

Make your organization a great place to work: Many companies stay in business in spite of themselves, with rigid, calcified management that quashes innovation every chance it gets. You don't have to have a campus full of pinball machines or nap pods, but a culture that encourages innovation and new approaches will help keep and attract valuable talent.

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