Where's the money?

Nicholas Enticknap reports on the undercurrents that are sweeping through the post-Y2K recruitment market

Nicholas Enticknap reports on the undercurrents that are sweeping through the post-Y2K recruitment market

A total of 21,000 jobs were analysed by the SSP/Computer Weekly Quarterly Survey of Appoin-tments Data and Trends, about 40% down on this time last year.

The decline was caused partly by the lull in recruitment following completion of the Y2K compliance projects, but also by the growth of job advertising on the Web. (These jobs are not counted in the SSP survey, which tracks only advertisements in the trade weekly newspapers and quality national daily press.)

The number of jobs appearing was typically in the 16,000 to 18,000 range, more than four times as many as a year earlier.

All types of job have shown a significant decline this time. Networking specialists fared best, with jobs down just 19% from 2,600 to 2,100. This is the seventh consecutive quarter in which networking jobs have done better than the average, and they now account for one in 10 of all IT jobs advertised.

Managers are also more in demand than most with 2,600 jobs on offer over the quarter, down 22% on last time compared with the overall market decline of 42%.

Those doing worst include, perhaps surprisingly, trainers, who saw their opportunities fall by two-thirds from this time last year.

Less surprising is the continuing decline in traditional posts. There were less than 1,600 jobs offered to analyst/programmers, compared to 6,000 a year ago. This is largely a matter of nomenclature and fashion: system developers, who do a similar job, fell by a much smaller amount, from 6,300 to 4,300.

Operators are a dying breed, with just 170 jobs available, 80% down on a year ago. This is a reflection of the march of technology: the skills that operators used to apply are now required more in the networking area than in standalone systems.

System programmer recruitment fell to a new record low, with just 125 jobs on offer. Here again we have a change in job title fashion: demand for technical analysts and system architects rose to over 600 this time from under 400 a year ago.

The salaries on offer rose by 3.8%, rather more than in most recent editions of the survey (in the second quarter it was 3.4%, a year ago it was just 2.7%). The figure this time is only just under the 3.9% average earnings inflation across the whole of UK industry, and is rather higher than the 3.3% RPI inflation in the year to September.

The average rise does conceal some significant variations, as can be seen in Table 1 on p36, which shows the average salary figures across all industries, geographies and platforms for some of the major job titles.

There were significant differences in recruiting activity by different industries over the quarter. Three of the user industry sectors actually increased advertising relative to this time last year, led by the public sector which raised its requirement by 13% to just under 1,000. The publishing/media sector increased its recruitment from 550 jobs to 600, while the utilities sector offered five more jobs than in the same period a year ago (and twice as many as in the second quarter).

These are all fairly small industry sectors. The largest user sector, banking and finance, cut its advertising by more than a half, from 4,200 to 2,000 positions. The manufacturing and engineering sectors both cut back by an even greater amount.

The three IT industry sectors - hardware suppliers, software houses and communications companies - accounted between them for just over a half of all jobs advertised.

The vast majority of jobs offered involved working with PCs and/or PC servers - four out of five jobs where the platform was specified. Most of the rest were for Unix sites. Only 6% of jobs were for IBM mainframe and mid-range, other mainframe, Digital Equipment and Hewlett-Packard sites put together.

The total jobs offered involving IBM mainframes (450), AS/400s (371) and Digital minis (191) were all the lowest ever recorded by SSP.

Regionally, the decline in the number of jobs was fairly uniform. Inner London registered the smallest decline from a year ago, at 38%, and in doing so ended a run of four consecutive quarters where it did worse than average. Scotland, which had been the most buoyant region for each of the previous three quarters, fell to well under 1,000 jobs this time. Northern England saw the biggest year-on-year decline, down 60%.

That 17,000-odd figure is almost as many as the total found by SSP throughout the three-month period, but this does not mean that Web advertising now exceeds magazine advertising. An "Internet ad" is not the same thing as a "magazine ad".

This is because an Internet ad appears 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).

Many of the jobs appearing on the Web are far less detailed than those in the magazines. A feature of this year has been that "shopping list" ads have disappeared almost entirely from the back pages of Computer Weekly and other publications, and are now found only on the Web. These are ads placed by recruitment agencies detailing large numbers of jobs with minimal detail, such as "Manchester: RPG anal/prog with 12 months experience, c£26,000".

The effect of this trend by agencies, to use the Web for this type of ad, has been to reduce significantly the number of jobs that appear on any one page of Computer Weekly. In the first quarter the average jobs per page in all publications was 19, by the second quarter it had fallen to below 16, while in the last quarter it was well below 14, and at the lowest level ever recorded.

The number of pages of advertising, therefore, provides a truer measure of the health of the IT job market, as each page costs (give or take) the same. The total number of pages last quarter was just over 1,500, which is only 16% down on the figure for the same period last year. This metric suggests that the slowdown in recruitment following the Y2K frenzy is coming to an end.

Table 1: Average salaries on offer

  Average salary Average salary Change
Job title offered in 3Q00 offered in 3Q99  
Management/systems consultants £71,773 £70,908 +1%
IT manager £57,343 £54,398 +14%
Systems analyst £28,598 £28,115 +2%
Programmer £24,559 £23,543 +4%
Analyst/programmer £27,310 £26,804 +2%
Systems developer £32,079 £31,372 +2%
PC support analyst £21,955 £22,162 -1%
Software engineer £29,727 £28,627 +4%
Network support technician £23,354 £21,173 +10%
Operator £21,857 £20,891 +5%

Table 2: Breakdown of jobs by region

  Jobs in 3Q00 Jobs in 3Q99 Change
Inner London 3,402 5,514 -38%
Outer London 2,947 5,052 -42%
Southern England 5,818 9,764 -40%
Wales & West 1,639 3,126 -48%
Midlands & East 2,081 4,554 -54%
Northern England 1,917 4,742 -60%
Scotland 755 1,312 -42%

Table 3: Breakdown of jobs by industry sector

Sector Jobs in 3Q00 Jobs in 3Q99 Change
Computer suppliers 594 716 -17%
Software houses 8,555 14,345 -40%
Comms companies 3,102 3,184 -3%
Banking/finance 2,040 4,244 -52%
Distribution/retail 931 1,211 -23%
Media/publishing 590 555 +6%
Manufacturing 160 485 -67%
Engineering 272 650 -58%
Utilities/energy 162 155 +5%
Public sector 997 856 +13%

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