IT jobs demand is bouncing along the bottom and will only recover in March/April 2010, according to an industry observer.
The latest Clarius Skills Index fell 0.3 points to 99.3 in the September quarter compared with a 0.5 point fall in July. According to Candle ICT chief executive, David Stewart, this reflected a gap between supply and demand of 500 jobs, compared to 400 last quarter.
“The decline is slowing to the point where in this last quarter it was really very marginal,” Stewart said. “I feel like we’re bouncing along the bottom and I think that’s been the case for the past three months.”
But despite signs of a global economic recovery, he didn’t expect the IT jobs market to improve until well at least 2010.
“It’s sort of a slow and painful recovery. You’ll get a burst of activity in one particular state and then the following month it’ll be in a different state and state that had been busy quietens down again,” Stewart said. “My best guess is March/April. Originally about six months ago, I thought it would be immediately after Christmas, which would have been February.”
Stewart blamed the unusual cycle on a lack of business confidence in the IT industry. While companies saw positive signs emerging from the market, few were prepared to “put their money where their mouth is”.
“They want to see a sustained improvement in their own bottom lines before they’ll commit to hiring significant numbers of new staff,” he said. But not all IT jobs will suffer, with sales and business analyst positions related to landing deals becoming increasingly common.
“Companies are putting people on who can help them go out and win new work because they believe new opportunities are out there,” Stewart said. “At the moment, project management and program management spaces, which were the hardest hit and job losses were typically in that field, haven’t really recovered yet. The other technical spaces weren’t as badly hit and typically didn’t lose their jobs but there hasn’t been a big pickup in demand either.”
Many of the job losses came from SMEs that had not re-hired and were causing concern for the industry.
“They were hit harder by the downturn and the recovery that we are seeing is tending to be in the larger blue chips for the moment. They were hit first and will be the last to recover,” Stewart said.
A recent survey from PriceWaterhouseCoopers claimed only one in five SMBs were preparing for the upturn, potentially leading to problems when it occurs.
“They’re failing to anticipate the fact that it’s going to be very hard to find people when they do recover. That’s going to constrain their ability to grow and to deliver on the project,” Stewart commented. “I suppose if you’re an SME you have to take that approach because you don’t have big cash reserves sitting behind you. But maybe those who take a more courageous approach now will benefit more when the market does kick up.”