Turn to the jobs pages of the newspaper you have in your hand, now close your eyes, pick an advert at random, and the chances are that the one you have landed on was placed by a south of England-based IT organisation in desperate need of C++ skills.
Number-crunching the latest SSP/Computer Weekly Quarterly Survey of Appointments Data and Trends paints a realistic picture of the current IT jobs market in the UK - and it's a picture with as many silver linings as there are clouds.
The jobs on offer are many, though not as many as were advertised in the first quarter of this year. IT recruitment activity continued to fall in the second quarter of 2000, for the sixth consecutive quarter. The total number of jobs advertised was a little over 25,000, down by almost half on the same period last year.
But there is no need to feel too gloomy about the situation. To give these figures a little perspective, the level of advertising during the quarter was lower than in each of the last four Y2K-dominated years, but about the same as in 1995 and 1990, and substantially higher than in each of the four years between.
If the number of jobs on offer was similar to the 1995 figure, the underlying pattern is very different.
The computer industry now accounts for more than half of all jobs advertised, as opposed to the 39% it accounted for in 1995. PC-based jobs now account for nearly 75% of the total, proportionally 10% more than in 1995.
Job titles, too, have changed substantially: there were more than 9,000 analyst/programmer jobs advertised in 1995, compared to just 2,000 this year, while systems developers - a title which hardly existed in 1995 - accounted for 5,000 vacancies in the latest results.
Notably the skills most in demand in the current climate are Web-based and object-oriented.
The decline in analyst/programmer vacancies is the most remarkable trend to emerge from a more detailed look at the job titles being advertised over the past quarter.
In 1995, the 9,000 positions advertised accounted for 35% of all jobs; even last year there were 10,000 jobs on offer, accounting for 22% of all jobs, and over the past three months there were just 2,200, or 9% of all jobs.
This is, of course, partly a question of nomenclature. Analyst/programmer jobs are mainly found in traditional mainframe and mini-computer sites outside the IT industry; within the industry and within Unix and PC-based development the term software developer is more in favour.
Software developer posts fell too, by 35% from 7,500 jobs a year ago to just under 5,000 this time. However, this drop is still less than the average, and these posts now account for nearly one in five of all jobs (see Graph 1).
The IT industry has also been manifesting a significant demand for software designers and software engineers, which together accounted for one in 10 of all jobs advertised this quarter. Demand for software designers fell by just 5% relative to a year ago, and software engineering posts by just 1%.
It's a sign of these turbulent times that new job titles are beginning to appear in the quarterly findings.
SSP now monitors jobs with the titles Web master or administrator, Web designer and Web author or editor. There were 800 of these types of jobs advertised during the quarter - as yet only 3% of the whole, though this can be expected to rise.
Analyst/programmers were not the only IT workers to see a decline in vacancies. Programming positions fell by two-thirds, from 3,000 to 1,000, and they now account for just 4% of all vacancies - the lowest since SSP started monitoring the market in the late 1980s. Adverts for operations jobs fell by 85% to just 230, the lowest second quarter figure since 1994.
In contrast, sites continue to look for networking specialists - they have now done better than average for six consecutive quarters. With 2,500 jobs on offer this time they now account for one in 10 of all jobs advertised for the first time. Management posts also continue to hold up well, with 3,100 jobs advertised during the three-month period, or 13% of all jobs on offer.
The median salary increase across all job categories was a little higher than recently, at 3.4%. This is still not generous compared to the headline inflation rate of 3.3%, or to the average UK earnings increase, which stood at 4.6% in April.
The average salary figures across all industries, regions and platforms for some major job titles are shown in Table 1.
The rise in salaries on offer among these job positions differed mainly as a function of supply and demand. The job categories where demand has held up best have seen the biggest rises, and vice versa.
Adverts for network support technicians had the greatest salary increase of 11%, while software engineers also did much better than average at 7% higher than a year ago. IT managers saw the salaries on offer rise by above the average.
Management consultants saw the salaries on offer fall slightly, for the third quarter in succession, while adverts for PC support analysts did worst of all with salaries on offer down by 6%. PC support positions in total fell from just under 2,000 to a little over 500.
The breakdown by platform type shows that PC-based development positions on offer numbered nearly 18,000, over 70% of the total, while Unix-based positions came to another 3,000.
IBM mainframe jobs plummeted to just over 500: that compares with more than 4,600 a year ago and 7,200 in the second quarter of 1998. Vacancies needing AS/400 expertise were also well down to under 500 from 2,500 a year ago. There were also between 200 and 250 jobs in both Digital Equipment and Hewlett-Packard sites.
Geographically, Scotland fared best for the third quarter in succession. While jobs north of the border fell by a quarter, from 1,300 to 1,000, this contrasted with every other region where a fall of about a half was witnessed. This ranged from 43% (Midlands and the East) to 56% (Wales and the West) (see Table 2).
The computer hardware industry was once again relatively unaffected by the general turndown in recruitment, with the jobs on offer remaining the same as a year ago.
The software industry, meanwhile, slackened its recruitment by almost exactly the overall average, but even so the IT industry overall increased its proportion of advertising to more than 50%.
Interestingly the computer user sectors all cut their advertising by about 60% with two exceptions. The publishing and media sector - the enthusiastic adopter of Web-based technology - cut recruitment by just over a quarter, while the public sector maintained its advertising at almost the same level as a year ago.
Table 1: Average salaries on offer
|Average Salary||Average Salary|
|Offered 2nd||Offered 2nd|
|Job Title||Quarter 2000||Quarter 1999||Change|
|PC support analyst||£21,993||£23,368||-6%|
|Network support technician||£23,219||£20,892||+11%|
Table 2: breakdown of jobs by region
|Jobs advertised in||Jobs advertised in|
|Region||2nd Quarter 2000||2nd Quarter 1999||Change|
|Wales & West||1,972||4,523||-56%|
|Midlands & East||2,551||4,509||-43%|
Table 3: Breakdown of jobs by sector
|Jobs advertised in||Jobs advertised in|
|Industry||2nd Quarter 2000||2nd Quarter 1999||Change|
This article is based on information contained in The SSP/Computer Weekly Quarterly Survey of Appointments Data and Trends.
The survey analyses advertisements for computer professionals in the trade press and the quality national dailies and Sundays. It is primarily intended for recruitment agencies and IT managers with a substantial recruitment requirement.
The posts advertised are broken down in the survey into 63 job categories. Within each job category, the survey provides details of the number of posts advertised and the average and median national salaries offered for the last quarter and for each of the previous four.
The survey provides further analyses within each job category by hardware type, industry type and region. It also provides a breakdown for the major job categories of the technical skills most in demand. In each analysis, it again details the average salary on offer for each of the past five quarters.
The price of a single issue of the survey is £225, and for an annual subscription £325. This covers four issues, and includes a free copy of a Windows-based software product that allows selection of combinations of region, industry and software skills for a specified job type.
For further information write to Julie McInally, Floor 12, Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5AS.