Career Watch: Crunching the BLS jobs figures

The latest jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics was pretty much good news for IT professionals, though just how good depends on how you interpret job categories.

Analyst firm Foote Partners says that the report for March shows there was a net increase of 10,900 IT jobs "across four industry job segments commonly associated with technology professionals" -- computer systems design/related services, management and technical consulting services, telecommunications, and data processing, hosting and related services.

Foote Partners says the March performance was a continuation of the trend seen in February, when the firm said 10,200 IT jobs were added. And it's a huge improvement over November, December and January, three months that, combined, saw the number of IT jobs increase by just 5,400, according to Foote.

Nonetheless, the jobs growth of February and March lags well behind the first seven months of 2013, when monthly gains averaged more than 14,000 jobs, according to Foote Partners.

Meanwhile, Janco Associates also looks at four BLS job categories, three of them the same as the ones Foote Partners focuses on. But instead of "management and technical consulting services," it looks at "other information services." The result? In March, Janco says, 8,300 IT jobs were added, and only 17,500 were added in the last three months.

There's yet another way to look at the BLS report from an IT perspective. Dice calculates that the unemployment rate for IT professionals was 2.7% in the first quarter. That compares to 6.7% for overall unemployment and an IT jobless rate of 3.5% in the first quarter of 2013.

As welcome as the improved figure is, it's still well above the record-low IT unemployment rate of 1.8% that Dice reported for the second quarter of 2007, before the Great Recession hit.

The Skinny on IT Unemployment

Here's a look at first-quarter unemployment rates for selected IT job categories:

" Network and systems administrators: 3.2%

" Computer and information systems managers: 3.0%

" Software developers: 2.8%

" Database administrators: 2.7%

" Programmers: 2.6%

" Computer support specialists: 2.3%

" Computer systems analysts: 0.8%

" Network architects: 0.8%

" Web developers: 0.7%

Source: Dice.com/U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader:

Stuart Kippelman

The CIO at Covanta Energy has advice on making a career move into the security field.

Covanta Energy CIO Stuart Kippelman

Stuart Kippelman, CIO at Covanta Energy.

I've been in IT support for a few years and now want to begin to focus on Internet security. What steps should I take to prepare for such a move? Since you're already in support, I'd say your first step should be to spend more time with security-related support. Ask your manager if you can work to specialize on the security incidents that come in. Being involved in security-related incidents will put you in the heart of Internet security and allow you to learn very quickly. From there, you can move into many other areas of security-related IT.

I manage a help desk, but I seem to have few opportunities for growth. I'm feeling frustrated because I feel that many of my skills are going to waste. What should I do? The help desk (also called the service desk) is one of the most important areas of IT, and good IT management teams know that. You are the interface between the entire IT department and the company's user community. You make IT look good, or bad. Doing the job well requires enormous technical, coordination and communication skills. Therefore, your management should see you as a key leader in the company, and someone who is part of the long-term success of the department. With that said, you can leverage your skills in project management, program management and even software development. Talk to your manager about becoming more involved in non-support-related projects. If that doesn't work, and management doesn't see your value, then it's time to look elsewhere.

This story, "Career Watch: Crunching the BLS jobs figures" was originally published by Computerworld.

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