Salary survey: Jobs down 76%

The total number of IT jobs advertised fell by 76% last year, but there are signs that the decline is levelling out and the first...

The total number of IT jobs advertised fell by 76% last year, but there are signs that the decline is levelling out and the first signs of an upturn may be not too far away, according to the quarterly Computer Weekly/SSP Survey of Appointments

If you are an IT director, have strong business skills or are proficient in SAP, the jobs market has taken a significant turn for the better over the past year. For the rest of you - bad luck. If you were looking for a new job, 2002 was a year you will probably want to forget. On the other hand, if you were one of the minority recruiting staff, you could probably choose from several ideal candidates.

Last year saw the biggest ever slump in the number of IT jobs advertised in the UK, according to the latest edition of the Computer Weekly/SSP Survey of Appointments Data and Trends, the UK's biggest and most comprehensive study of the IT jobs market.

The total number of UK IT jobs advertised in magazines and on the internet fell by 76% between the fourth quarter of 2001 and the fourth quarter of 2002. The decline continued in every quarter of the year, dashing the hopes of some industry watchers who had forecast an upturn in the jobs market towards the end of 2002.

Top five industry sectors advertising IT jobs 

Industry Q4 2001 Q4 2002 % change 
Software houses 90,342 21,074 -77% 
Finance 31,998 8,942 -72% 
Communications 15,812 3,896 -75% 
Retail 6,696 1,680 -75% 
Manufacturing 5,787 1,590 -73% 




It was felt across every industry sector, in every region in the UK and, with one or two exceptions, across every type of job, from senior managers down.

But the pattern of decline was not uniform. Some sectors fared better than others, and there were a small number of job types for which demand grew.

As is often the case, the people at the top of the IT ladder have had a better time than those at the bottom. The advertised number of management jobs fell by "only" 50% on average. These now account for 5% of all advertised IT jobs, compared to 3% at the end of 2001.

Top five IT management jobs advertised    

Job title Q4 2001 Q4 2002 % change
IT/IS director 190 227 19%
MIS/IT manager 744 430 -42%
Systems development manager 1,288 578 -55%
Computer services manager 763 326 -57%
Office systems/PC manager 389 128 -67%

Within this management group, demand held up best in the most senior roles. Demand for MIS/IT managers fell by a relatively modest 42% over the year while the number of jobs advertised for IT directors actually increased by 19%, reaching 227 in the fourth quarter.

"We are seeing more senior roles as a percentage of the total than in the past," said Michael Bennett, a director of recruitment firm Best International. However, he said this is partly because, while recruiters are managing to fill many jobs without advertising, they are more likely to advertise a senior vacancy. "The belief is you always want to select from the best possible audience," he said.

In non-management roles, jobs for PC support staff and internet-related roles such as web master experienced the smallest declines in vacancies.

Top five non-management jobs in IT advertised   

Job title Q4 2001 Q4 2002 % change
Systems design 36,226 10,150 -72%
System development 65,169 13,600 -79%
Programming 5,497 1,930 -65%
PC support 6,865 3,019 -56%
Technical support 31,202 7,054 -77%

Jobs involving databases, such as database administrator, and system development jobs such as analyst programmers, saw the biggest slump in demand, with the number of job ads falling by about 80% in both cases.

This pattern of demand is reflected in the salaries being offered in job ads. At the top end, the average advertised salary for IT directors leapt by 14.5% between the fourth-quarter of 2001 and the fourth-quarter of 2002, reaching £95,340. Average salaries offered for most management jobs grew faster than the average increase for all jobs.

Top five jobs - average salary

Job title Average advertised salary % change Q4 01-Q4 2002
IT/IS director £95,340 14.5
MIS/IT manager £55,145 5.6
Systems development manager £51,093 6.2
Computer services manager £50,482 9.6
Office systems/PC manager £36,413 1.2

Bottom five jobs - average salary

Job title Average advertised salary % change Q4 01-Q4 2002
Database administrator 36,426 -3
Network/comms analyst/engineer 32,605 2.5
Operator 23,571 6.1
Webmaster 31,248 0.9
Web designer 26,325

Number of jobs advertised by platform   

Platform Q4 2001 Q4 2002 % change
Mainframe/mini 18,021 3,417 -81%
Unix 38,413 9,366 -76%
Windows 139,391 27,350 -80%

The average salaries offered for some jobs declined over the same period - for example, by 9.4% for development team leaders, 3.6% for analyst programmers and 3% for database administrators. But overall, for most jobs the average advertised salaries were higher at the end of 2002 than at the start (table 5).

However, employers are expecting a lot more for their money, say those close to the market. "Whatever spec you want, you can insist on getting it," said Cathy Walsh, managing partner at recruitment firm the Triangle Partnership. "If people don't meet your entire spec you don't consider them. If you have five criteria you can demand all five now."

Paul Smith, a director of recruitment giant Harvey Nash, says recruiters are holding out for people with a greater breadth of skills, particularly at the top end. "Salaries are increasing, but in return people are looking for real commercial and strategic skills," he says. "We have seen a major change over the past three years, away from people with technical capabilities towards people able to advise the business on delivering real business propositions and return on investment. Firms are looking for people who know how to structure IT to deliver competitive edge, while keeping costs to the minimum. This is a prime factor in recruiting senior people."

E-Skills UK, a body representing employers of IT staff, is also finding that firms are now more interested in the "softer" skills. "Employers are getting pickier," says Terry Watts, E-Skills UK's chief operating officer. "They are looking for more well-rounded people. People get hung up on supplier-specific skills. But employers say they want people they can put in front of customers and who can work as part of their teams."

As always, even in an economic slowdown, there are some niche skills for which demand is still growing. In the league table of the 50 most sought-after software skills, six are experiencing real growth in demand, with the number of jobs advertised higher at the end of 2002 than at the end of 2001.

Fastest-growing software skills 2001-2002 

Skill  Growth Skill Growth
C# 59% CRM 19%
SAP 53% .net 14%
Wan 32% Lan 3%

Demand for people with customer relationship management skills increased by 19% during 2002, while the number of jobs advertised seeking SAP skills shot up by 53%.

"You have to take your hats off to the SAP guys," says Lorne Knight, sales director at recruitment giant Computer Futures. "They have a good product, and they have invested a significant amount on marketing. SAP is in your face."

Knight says the demand for SAP skills is being boosted because firms are increasingly looking to implement SAP using in-house staff or contractors, rather than relying on expensive consultancies.

Demand for networking skills has also increased. Over the past year the number of job ads asking for wide area networking expertise grew by 32%, and the number seeking local area networking skills increased by 3%.

Looking at emerging skills, Microsoft will be pleased to note that demand for people to work with its .net technology increased by 14% during 2002, while the number of jobs ads seeking people who can use Microsoft's C# programming language leapt by 59%, making this the fastest-growing skill in the UK top 50, albeit from a very low starting point.

Top five software skills   

Skill Rank (Q4/01) Jobs (Q4/01) Rank (Q4/02) Jobs (Q4/02) % change
SQL 2 36,719 1 10,470 -71%
C++ 1 37,654 2 9,120 -76%
Unix 3 34,252 3 9,082 -73%
Office 8 18,619 4 7,901 -58%
Windows NT 9 18,256 5 7,778 -57%

Bottom five software skills

Skill Rank (Q4/01) Jobs (Q4/01) Rank (Q4/02) Jobs (Q4/02) % change
Novell 34 3,354 46 850 -75%
Prince 44 1,695 47 812 -52%
Lotus products 28 4,240 48 794 -81%
Delphi 25 4,512 49 793 -82%
Lotus Notes 26 4,313 50 784 -82%

But not all organisations are looking to plug skills gaps by taking on new staff. An increasing number are retraining existing staff. The Computer Weekly/Kew Associates biannual study of IT budgets shows spending on IT training up 24% in 2002. "Employers, especially the big ones, instead of worrying about technology or hiring new people, are doing more about understanding the skills of the existing workforce," says Watts.

The Computer Weekly/SSP research shows little geographical variation in the jobs market. Central London saw the number of jobs advertised decline marginally less than the average, driven by public sector and other not-for-profit organisations rather than London's traditional IT jobs engine, the City, says Walsh.

Across the whole country the public sector was the most promising part of the jobs market, with demand down by a mere 44%.

So what can we expect this year? Despite the failure of an upturn to materialise at the end of 2002, most recruitment firms are cautiously optimistic about 2003.

"The technology market is beginning to gear up a bit," says Smith. "The software houses and communications houses are starting to invest in new sales people" - a strong sign the demand for technical staff is set to rise, he says.

Smith disagrees with pundits who say the market will not pick up this year because of a lack of a "killer application". "The killer app to restimulate the jobs market is going to be the need to deliver business returns on investment," he says.

Bennett says that even the moribund market for IT contractors is showing some signs of life. "We have seen growth of 7% to 8% in our contract business in the first month of this year, compared to December," he says.

Whenever the upturn does come, Bennett expects demand to pick up fast. "I was in this business in 1992," he says. "It turned around very quickly then. We were overwhelmed."

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