UK IT Employment Still Better Than Post Y2K

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The recession is taking its toll but conditions are not as dire as previously believed according to research

Despite numerous announcements of job cuts at large IT vendors such as IBM and Microsoft, the impact of the global recession on tech employment may not be as dire as some commentators believe.

According to the latest quarterly bulletin from government-backed skills body e-skills UK, although employment in the IT industry has been hit by the recession, conditions so far do not appear to be as dire as some have predicted.

The report, which examines conditions in the first three months of 2009 – or the final quarter of financial year 2008 as it is also considered – the number of IT staff being made redundant doesn’t appear to be significantly higher than the normal levels expected in previous years. The report further claims, citing data from the Office of National Statistics, that the number of IT pros in work is at its highest level for seven years.

“It would be flying in the face of the wind to state that economic problems do not exist, but on the face of it, it seems to be that (in ICT terms at least) things were not as bad at the end of the year as we may have originally thought, and certainly (to date) nothing like what was happening in the post Y2k period when redundancies, employment levels, IT expenditure and labour demand were all in much worse shape than at present,” the report states.

But despite claiming that conditions are not as bad as previous predictions had stated, the skills body is still advising IT pros who are in steady jobs to stay put for now rather than look for other opportunities.

“…to us here at e-skills UK it would seem prudent, if you are in work, to bed down and make the most of what you’ve got, particularly in the contract market – after all, job openings are comparatively few and far between at the moment, and whilst advertised salaries have fallen in each of the five past quarters, actual awards to those in work have at least shown an increase over the past two,” the report states.

Unemployed IT staff or those facing redundancy obviously have little choice but to hunt out a new role but according to e-skills there is still a relatively healthy market for certain skills and experience.

“For the unlucky 27,000 or so unemployed ICT staff (according again to ONS estimates) looking for work, it’s worth bearing in mind that employers were still reporting hard-to-fill vacancies in the areas of Systems Development, IT/Telecoms Management, Programming and Systems Design during the final quarter of the year, whilst a number of tech skills also were proving ‘crunch resistant’ at that time i.e. WAP, COM, Active X, and Sage,” the report states.

A survey earlier this month of information security professionals suggested that, although budgets have been affected by the downturn, hiring is on the up.

Nearly two thirds (72 per cent) of over 2,500 members of the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium ((ISC)²) said their budgets had been cut. Of the nearly one third of respondents who identified themselves as having hiring responsibilities, 43 per cent said they were looking to hire additional information security staff this year as an early indicator of recovery.