IT job numbers decline for first time in 25 months

IT lost 1,700 jobs in September, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

After sustained jobs growth -- including 36,300 jobs added in July and August alone -- the IT industry lost 1,700 jobs in September, according to Foote Partners' analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Last week's jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed better-than-expected results, including a sizable drop in the national unemployment rate to 7.8% from 8.1%. But for the IT industry, September was a big disappointment. After sustained growth -- including 36,300 jobs added in July and August alone -- the IT industry lost 1,700 jobs in September.

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September marks the first the monthly decline since August 2010 that wasn't associated with a labor strike or other market anomaly, notes IT analyst firm Foote Partners, which focuses on tech employment research.

Foote Partners analyzed the numbers:

* In the Management and Technical Consulting Services category, 1,800 jobs were lost following 17 consecutive months of job growth during which a total of 95,400 jobs were added.

* One bright spot: the Computer Systems Design/Related Services segment. This category gained 2,900 jobs in September, marking the 24th consecutive month of job growth.

* Telecommunications posted a loss of 400 jobs in September, and the Data Processing/Hosting/Related Services segment lost a total of 2,400 jobs -- the largest single monthly decline since June 2009, Foote Partners noted. Between January and August, these two segments combined lost 15,000 jobs.

Of the sudden reversal in IT job expansion, Foote Partners CEO David Foote said it was unanticipated but, given the volatility in IT skills supply and demand, likely to be reversed in the near term.

"Overall national employment numbers were disappointing [in] July and August, but for IT they were spectacular, the greatest monthly gains in five years," Foote stated in his monthly analysis of the DOL's employment report. "At the jobs level I wouldn't be surprised if this turned back around soon because the truth is that many of the IT job segments in the government jobs reports, in particular those in IT services, have been on strong and sustained growth runs for nearly two years. Companies are actively searching for talent and hiring for the future, though with considerable selectivity."

Companies are looking for versatile individuals with multi-dimensional skills that aren't always easy to find, Foote noted.

"Companies continue to aggressively pursue workers with multiple talents -- a mix of technology, business, and people skills that many who are not working simply do not have. Or a unique combination of pure tech skills: for example, cloud administrators who are adept at automating the configuration and operations in a cloud environment by combining a variety of different skill sets around systems administration, virtualization, storage and network administration. It's not about just running a server. Or cloud developers who have mastered new sets of APIs, new frameworks, and non-relational databases like NoSQL to develop elastic and scalable apps in the cloud."

Ann Bednarz covers IT careers, outsourcing and Internet culture for Network World. Follow Ann on Twitter at @annbednarz and check out her blog, Occupational Hazards. Her email address is abednarz@nww.com.

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