IT job ads continue to fall

IT job ads suffer worst monthly fall since November 2001, with half the amount in January compared to the same month last year

The number of average weekly IT job ads for January dropped to almost half of last year’s figure, according to the latest Olivier Job Index (OJI).

IT job ads decreased by 16.78 per cent from December to January. The average number of weekly seasonally adjusted IT job ads was 21,771 for January, 2009, compared to 41,794 for the same month last year.

On the whole, the OJI suffered its steepest fall in eight years of data, tumbling 12.64 per cent in January. There were 35.26 per cent fewer jobs advertised nationally for all sectors.

However, Olivier Group director, Bob Olivier, said January is the low point of the employment year and traditionally negative and volatile.

“We always tell people to be a bit cautious on December and January figures because it is such an unusual market, so the Australian Bureau of Statistics seasonally adjusts our numbers. But there is still greater volatility,” he said.

“The stats are woeful, there is no disputing it. This is the worst monthly fall for IT since November 2001. It wasn’t actually the worst on record but the worst for seven out of eight years of [OJI] history, so it’s pretty devastating.”

The adjusted monthly fall for software development jobs – the biggest IT employment category by a country mile, Olivier said – was 19.4 per cent in December and 49 per cent on a yearly basis.

“I always think [software development] is a litmus test. If that is doing well everything does well, but if it’s poor then nothing else is going to do well,” he said.

IT management and sales was off 23.8 per cent in December, network communications and security was down 23.9 per cent, and Internet, graphics and multimedia dipped 24.6 per cent.

“Through 2008 [Internet, graphics and multimedia] was one of the few rosy areas but even that seems to have dissipated,” Olivier said.

The IT category with the best result for job ads was systems administration, down 7.6 per cent for the month and 24 per cent for the year.

The two most lucrative IT employment regions, NSW and Victoria, shed 19.5 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively, for the month. Annually, IT job ads in NSW are down 50 per cent, and Victoria down 49 per cent. The worst performing sector for the month was WA, falling 26.9 per cent. The best, Canberra, fell just 6.83 per cent.

The tumbling figures may further exacerbate the skills shortage, as Olivier warned the number of 457 Visa sponsorships were down in January. 457 Visa holders must find a new job and apply for a new 457 Visa within 28 days of finishing their last job.

“And if you don’t find a job within a month of finishing your last job you must pack you bags and go home, and it’s doubtful that they will return. So what does that mean for employers? It’s not good news really,” he said.

“They were here for a reason – we couldn’t find local talent. So while that might give some relief to the local workforce it’s not going to help employers in the long run.”

Statistically, the latest OJI is bad news for the IT sector, but it wasn’t the worst hit. Financial services fell the hardest with 20.82 per cent fewer jobs, human resources fell 20.09 per cent, advertising and media dropped 18.31 per cent, legal 18.13 per cent, and accounting 16.76 per cent. Trades and services, and healthcare were the least two affected sectors, falling just 0.83 per cent and 1.75 per cent, respectively.