Facts behind the figures

It has been a lean time for job seekers - with precious little to choose from despite the impression created by Internet...

It has been a lean time for job seekers - with precious little to choose from despite the impression created by Internet advertising.

Nicholas Enticknap sorts out the statistics from the SSP/Computer Weekly survey of job advertisements

Last year was the worst for IT job hunters since 1994, according to the SSP/Computer Weekly Quarterly Survey of Appointments Data and Trends. There were just under 100,000 jobs advertised in the press during the year. To that number must be added those jobs advertised exclusively on the Web, for which statistical data is not available.

Many jobs today are advertised both in the press and on the Web. The number of jobs appearing on the computerweekly. com site, for example, was typically in the 25,000 to 30,000 range - more than the entire number advertised in the press during the quarter.

But Web-based advertising is not yet the major means of IT recruitment, as these numbers would appear to suggest. This is because Internet ads appear for a variable length of time, quite a lot of them for a month or more. A magazine ad appears only once, unless the advertiser decides to put it in again - and pay for it again.

In addition, many of the jobs appearing on the Web are far less specific than those in the magazines, most of which go into great detail about both the job and the employer. Looking for job positions in Computer Weekly has become significantly easier over the last year because of this. During 2000 the number of jobs advertised per page was just under 16, while in each of the previous three years it was between 20 and 21.

The number of pages of advertising, therefore, provides a truer measure of the health of the IT jobs market than the number of jobs, as each page costs approximately the same. The total number of pages last quarter was just more than 1,400, which is only 16% down on the figure for the same period last year.

This suggests the slowdown in recruitment following the year 2000 frenzy is coming to an end. So does the corresponding figure for the decline in jobs.

The last quarter was the eighth in succession to show a decline on the same quarter in the previous year. But the fall in the number of jobs this time was less than 30%, whereas it had been over 40% in each of the previous three quarters, and was more than 40% for the year as a whole. The downturn may be about to level out.

Jobs of all types fell in the last three months. Demand held up best for managers, where there were just 100 fewer jobs advertised than in the last quarter of 1999.

Networking staff also saw a relatively small decline, with 250 fewer jobs to choose from. Staff with these skills have done best over the last two years, even though the number of jobs on offer has declined in each of the eight quarters of that period. The fall has in each case been significantly less than the average and as a result the number of networking positions advertised rose proportionately from one in 20 of all jobs at the end of 1998 to one in nine at the end of last year.

Demand for software staff fell by more than the overall market average. Programming jobs were down by nearly a half, and database positions down by more than 40%. Analyst/programming positions fell by two-thirds, mainly because most advertisers prefer to ask for software developers now. These jobs fell by just 22%, and totalled just under 4,000, one in five of all IT jobs on offer. Combining analyst/ programmers and developers, the percentage fall was the same as the demand for programmers.

Advertisers are also cutting back on training. These positions fell by 40% last time to just 140.

Operations positions on offer fell again. There were just 139 of these jobs advertised, the lowest since 1993. The salaries on offer were, however, significantly higher than those of a year ago.

Those other relics of the mainframe age, systems programmers, were even worse off, with just 80 jobs advertised, the lowest total since SSP began surveying the market in the late 1980s. People with these skills anxious to move jobs are well advised to restyle themselves as technical analysts or system architects.

Positions advertised with these job titles nearly doubled over the quarter, rising to 765. That was more than the total number of jobs advertised for specialist Web professionals in large numbers. There were 600 jobs of this type on offer over the three months, 3% of the total.

Regional report

Regionally, job hunters in Wales enjoyed a good final quarter, following two bad ones. There were nearly 2,000 jobs advertised there over the three months, 420 down on 1999 but 200 up on the third quarter.

Over the whole country the south fared best, with London and the Home Counties seeing the jobs on offer fall 26%, which compares with a 41% decline over the rest of the country (including Wales). There were 11,400 jobs advertised in the south and 6,400 in the rest of the UK.

Three industry sectors bucked the overall downwards trend by increasing their recruitment during the last quarter. The public sector, which has weathered the downturn better than any other, saw jobs increase 3% to 820. The media/publishing sector, which has been the most enthusiastic adopter of Web-based applications, saw an even bigger increase, with jobs up 12% to 530. The retail sector also increased its advertising, but only fractionally.

The other user sectors have not picked up at all after the completion of their year 2000 compliance projects. In the financial and energy sectors, jobs were down by nearly a half, while in engineering the jobs on offer were down 60%.

The three IT industry sectors, which together account for 55% of all jobs, all cut back on their advertising in the last quarter, but by less than the market average in each case.

The salaries on offer were not generous. They had increased by an average 3.1% over the fourth quarter of 1999, which is just under the headline inflation rate of 3.2% and well under the average wage inflation rate of 4.2%.

In the third quarter the average increase shot upwards to 3.8%, but this now looks like a statistical blip.

This global average across all job positions is a rough indicator of the buoyancy of the overall market, but is not a very helpful indicator for any individual's circumstances.

The tables below provide more detail, showing the average salary figures across all industries, geographies and platforms for some of the major job titles.

High-end salaries grow slower

Average salary by job title over fourth quarter 2000

  Average Salary Average Salary Change
Job Title Q4 2000 Q4 1999  
Management/systems consultant £72,305 £71,669 +1%
IT manager £55,015 £53,168 +3%
Systems analyst £28,877 £26,435 +9%
Programmer £24,525 £23,525 +4%
Analyst/programmer £27,929 £27,206 +3%
Systems developer £31,805 £31,273 +2%
PC support analyst £22,253 £22,908 -3%
Software engineer £30,139 £28,475 +6%
Network support technician £23,758 £21,284 +2%
Operator £23,500 £21,112 +11%

South fares better than rest of the UK

Breakdown of jobs by region Jobs Jobs Change
Region Q4 2000 Q4 1999  
Inner London 2,856 4,198 -32%
Outer London 2,730 3,749 -27%
Southern England 5,957 7,703 -23%
Wales & West 1,921 2,432 -21%
Midlands & East 2,002 3,737 -46%
Northern England 1,780 3,612 -51%
Scotland 708 1,216 -42%

Three sectors see increase in jobs

Breakdown of jobs by industry sector Jobs Jobs Change
Sector Q4 2000 Q4 1999  
Computer suppliers      
Software houses 8,050 11,240 -28%
Comms companies 3,323 3,519 -6%
Banking/finance 1,656 3,108 -47%
Distribution/retail 866 855 +1%
Media/publishing 533 476 +12%
Manufacturing 271 326 -17%
Engineering 230 571 -60%
Utilities/energy 73 129 -43%
Public sector 820 794 +3%

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