Survey: Demand for IT workers down

ITAA 2003 IT Workforce Survey

Demand for information technology workers is at a four-year low, according to a survey from the Information Technology Association of America, but this could be good news for federal agencies.

The ITAA survey found that firms predicted they would need to fill about 493,000 IT positions during the next 12 months. This is down from 1.2 million at the start of 2000 and less than one-half of the predicted 1.1 million positions needed at the start of 2002.

Sixty-seven percent of those interviewed said they thought the hiring demand would stay the same or decline over the next 12 months.

The numbers are disappointing, but could represent a positive turn of events for agencies, said Harris Miller, president of ITAA. "Because the economy is slower, federal agencies have an easier time" recruiting, he said. And some feds considering retiring "might stick around for a few more years."

In general, the "overall softness in the IT market is helping the federal government," Miller said.

The ITAA survey also found that firms are outsourcing more jobs overseas, which may account for some drop in demand for IT workers, particularly among IT companies. Twelve percent of IT companies and 3 percent of non-IT companies say they have already opened up overseas operations.

However, Miller said federal IT contractors are less likely to choose this route since, in most cases, agencies require employees working on federal contracts to be U.S. citizens. There also are security and political reasons that come into play, he added.

"It shouldn't have a dramatic impact on the federal government in the short-term," Miller said. However, states and localities will see it happen mainly for economic reasons.

In terms of specific job categories, programmers/software engineers represent the largest single professional group within the IT workforce, followed by technical support personnel and enterprise systems specialists, the survey found.

In percentage terms, demand for digital media experts fell farthest, down 67 percent, followed by network designers at 59 percent.

The survey is based on a telephone poll of 400 hiring managers in IT and non-IT firms, conducted between March 27 and April 15, 2003.

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