IT Doing Better Than Other Careers in 2009
January 5, 2009 Timothy Prickett Morgan
There are worse careers to be in than information technology, apparently, even if the pressure is increasing to do more with less and there is always the threat of outsourcing or some other services-style IT looming just out beyond the next paycheck. According to the most recent job forecast put together by CareerBuilder.com, IT is among the few areas where managers expect to add employees in the coming year.
While the CareerBuilder.com survey does not focus exclusively on IT hiring, as do surveys from Robert Half Technology, the latest CareerBuilder.com survey does provide a comparison and contrast of hiring expectations with other sectors of the U.S. economy, and perhaps more importantly, provides some insight into the general trends in the jobs market expected during 2009, which affects all of us, either directly or indirectly.
Uncertainty seems to be the rule as 2008 came to a close and 2009 gets rolling.
“The job market of 2008 suffered as the U.S. economy weakened and entered into a recession,” explains Matt Ferguson, chief executive officer at CareerBuilder.com. “Looking ahead, recruitment levels are expected to be lower in the new year, but employers are not out of the mix completely. Instead, they’re taking ‘a wait and see’ approach to hiring; 14 percent of employers surveyed by CareerBuilder.com state they plan to increase full-time, permanent employees, and 16 percent plan to decrease in 2009. The remainder of employers say they are unsure or don’t plan to make any changes to their headcount in the new year.”
CareerBuilder.com commissioned polling expert Harris Interactive to survey companies about their expected 2009 hiring plans between November 12 and December 1 last year. Harris Interactive got responses from 3,259 managers and human resources executives who are responsible for hiring and firing at their companies. (Government and educational institutions were not surveyed, just companies.)
IT jobs seem to be a relative bright spot in the United States, if the CareerBuilder.com 2009 jobs forecast data is any indication. Some 28 percent of employers in the IT sector said they would be adding permanent, full-time jobs in 2009, beating out the 23 percent of companies engaged primarily in professional and business services who said they would be adding full-time jobs. Of the managers in the transportation and utilities industries, 20 percent said they would be adding full-time jobs this year, followed by 16 percent of companies identified as being in the sales industry. (I am perplexed by that category, myself.) Not surprisingly, 14 percent of managers in the healthcare industry said they would be putting more full-time employees on the payroll in 2009, followed by 13 percent of managers in financial services, 7 percent among retailers, and 5 percent in the hospitality sector. The survey data did not divulge what percentage of managers in these industries expected to hold payrolls steady, to make job cuts, or to make up their minds later in the year because they just don’t know yet.
But across all industries, the survey data released to the public by CareerBuilder.com does give an impression that hiring levels are down from 2008, which is no surprise at all given the state of the economy. Lumping all industries and geographies in the United States together, 14 percent of employers expect to add full-time employees, but 32 percent of those surveyed by Harris Interactive for the 2008 jobs forecast in late 2007 expected to add full-timers. In the latest poll that is used as the basis of the 2009 jobs forecast, 16 percent of the companies polled said they would be cutting full-time jobs, 56 percent said they would stay the same, and 13 percent said they were unsure. In terms of part-timers, who make up a significant portion of the American workforce, both inside the IT sector and outside of it, 8 percent of those polled said they would be adding employees, which is pretty lame compared to the 21 percent who said they would be adding part-timers in the 2008 survey. Some 14 percent of those polled said they would be cutting part-timers in 2009, with 62 percent saying they will hold steady, and 15 percent saying they are not sure.
While the CareerBuilder.com overview of the U.S. jobs market is interesting, it neglects one thing: the IT sector of the economy is small, but every company has an IT department. So the IT sector–meaning software companies, hardware makers, and IT services firms–are not necessarily indicative of the hiring and firing trends in the IT industry. An RPG or Java or C programmer can work in the IT industry or within the IT department of a company in an entirely different industry, and it is very likely that more people work in IT outside of the IT industry proper than inside of it. So, for instance, financial services companies make be making cuts in management and support staff as banks, brokerages, and other companies merge, but they may be adding IT personnel to do data center and application consolidation projects.
The general trend data that CareerBuilder.com has gathered is interesting, even if it is not specific to IT. Pay increases are under pressure, with only 66 percent of companies polled saying they will increase salaries in the 2009 forecast (compared to 80 percent in the 2008 forecast); 46 percent of those surveyed said they will raise salaries by 3 percent or more, and only 10 percent say they will kick pay rates up by 5 percent or more. Only 33 percent of the companies said they will crank up salaries for new hires, down from 65 percent a year ago, which shows you just how much looser the job market is now. And even those who say they are cranking up salaries for new hires are offering less of an increase than a year ago. Which stands to reason, given the state of the U.S. economy.
Interestingly, a third of employers surveyed are planning to implement more flexible work environments as a benefit for employees, which is something that does not necessarily cost money and which may even save companies money while increasing employee happiness. Some 70 percent of those surveyed for the 2009 jobs forecast that said they were working on flexible work arrangements said they were giving employees the option of shifting their schedules to either earlier or later in the work day to better fit their lives. Some 48 percent of those making flexible work arrangements said they would be offering telecommuting, 40 percent were doing compressed work weeks (cramming 40 hours into fewer days), 19 percent are offering summer hours (less work during slow times), 13 percent were doing job sharing (where multiple employees cover for each other and work out schedules to ensure the workload gets done), and 7 percent were thinking about sabbaticals.
If you want to look at the 2009 U.S. Forecast report generated by CareerBuilder.com based on its survey data, you can do so at this link.