In the last couple of months, finance, retail and car manufacturing companies have all announced large staff layoffs, running into tens of thousands of people. Barclays Bank said it would cut its IT department alone by 400 people.
But recruitment agencies say many companies are still short of well-qualified security staff and are still recruiting. Simon Hember, managing director of Acumin Consulting Ltd., which specialises in recruiting security people, said that end-user companies are still looking for staff at all levels. "Legislation is driving this. Even in a downturn, you still need to be secure and compliant," he said.
This is also benefiting the consultancy sector, he said, with companies such as Atos Origin S.A., Logica CMG plc and Deloitte Development LLC still recruiting to serve the need of clients that are unable to recruit enough in-house staff.
One problem affecting recruitment at the moment is that employees are choosing to sit tight in their current job rather than risk a move. But that is likely to change soon, according to Sarb Sembhi, security consultant and researcher. He said that although many financial services companies announced big redundancy programmes shortly before Christmas, they have not yet identified which staff will go or stay.
"We are looking for a security architect at the moment, but no one wants to make a move until they know if they are in line for a redundancy pay-off," he said. "Once those announcements are made, and people have their golden parachute, then we'll be able to place them elsewhere."
While full-time staff are keen to make the most of their employment rights, the contractors are more exposed. Sembhi said one large finance company recently announced a 10% cut in contractors' rates: "Basically they were told to take it or leave it." In other cases, he said that companies were persuading good contractors to become full-time employees, rather than pay inflated contractor rates.
Although the finance sector is currently shrinking, Hember said the pubic sector is still spending on big projects, like the upcoming London Olympics in 2012, which are providing plenty of opportunities for security people.
"I wouldn't say the security profession is immune to the recession, but it's pretty well sheltered," he said.