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End of IT jobs decline?

Bill Goodwin

The three-year decline in demand for IT professionals appears to be over as employers begin to step up recruitment of contract and permanent staff with key technical and managerial skills.

For the first time since 2000, the number of job advertisements placed by employers seeking IT staff has begun to rise, providing an early indication that organisations are taking IT projects and upgrades off the back burner.

Contract staff are benefiting most from the upturn, but demand is also up for some categories of permanent IT staff, including project managers and PC support staff, the latest Computer Weekly/SSL survey of recruitment advertising reveals.

Although it is premature to talk about a sustained recovery, the findings show that decline in ITrecruitment since 2000 has bottomed out as IT departments realise they cannot delay projects indefinitely.

While overall demand for permanent IT staff has remained level, demand for IT contractors, always the first to benefit when the economy improves, rose by 8.5% in the second quarter.

Growth in the public sector has driven the upturn. Demand for contractors rose by 26% and for permanent staff by 1.7% in the 2nd quarter this year as the government ploughed money into the NHS and government bodies strive to meet 2005 online targets.

The financial sector is hiring significantly more IT staff, with the number of advertisements for permanent staff up by 10.5% and advertisements for contractors up by 30% this quarter.

Across all industries, demand for skills in the programming language C Sharp is up by 40%, while demand for Microsoft Exchange rose by 34%, and .net by 22%.

"For the first time in three years there is an upward movement. It is not getting any worse, but we need to wait for October's figures before it is clear if there is a recovery," said George Molyneaux, managing director of SSL.

Nevertheless, the jobs market in IT is only a fraction of the size it was in 2000 when the number of IT jobs advertised each month on the web and in print peaked at 70,000, compared to 18,000 today.

Recruitment agency Harvey Nash confirmed that there was increased demand for IT skills from the public and finance sectors, although financial firms were increasingly looking for staff with business as well as IT skills.

Analyst Ovum Holway said that the survey is in line with its own research but it was too early to say whether the decline in permanent recruitment was over.

Computer Weekly/SSL appointment data and trends survey available from SSL: info@salaryservices.co.uk

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