The number of jobs on offer in magazines, newspapers and online plummeted by 76% between Q4 2001 and Q4 2002, from 230,481 to 55,582, according to the latest Computer Weekly/SSP Survey of IT Appointments - the most comprehensive study of the UK IT jobs market.
SAP was one of a handful of skills that bucked the trend, with demand growing by 53%, taking the number of jobs on offer to 2,866 in the last three months of 2002. This lifted SAP from 41st place to 17th place in the league table of most sought-after software skills.
Lorne Knight, sales director at recruitment giant Computer Futures, said firms were taking on staff to run SAP systems already in place, and were also increasingly taking a do-it-yourself approach when implementing SAP. "More people are taking on SAP skills themselves, rather than using the consultancies," he said.
Only five other skills in the top 50 experienced a rise in demand during 2002: wide area and local area networking; customer relationship management; Microsoft .net; and C#, the new Microsoft programming language. C# saw the fastest percentage growth in demand (59%), but from a relatively low base. C++ job adverts still outnumbered C# vacancies by more than 10 to one in Q4 2002.
The jobs slowdown, which continued throughout 2002, hit all regions of the UK. central London experienced a marginally smaller decline than other areas, while the East Midlands was the worst hit. The public sector was the most buoyant economic sector for IT jobs, with utilities the most depressed.