Midyear jobs outlook: What to know about IT hiring, skills, benefits

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Companies in hiring mode say there’s a shortage of tech talent, while IT pros are upping their expectations for pay and benefits. Overall, the midyear jobs outlook is positive for IT pros.

IT staffing firms and employment researchers released a flurry of data as the first half of the year came to a close. The bottom line? The second half of 2014 is looking good for job-hunting IT pros, particularly if they possess coveted skills. IT employment numbers are rising, employers are forging ahead with hiring plans, and CIOs are confident about hiring budgets. Here come the numbers.

IT employment: Steady growth

IT employment continues to climb, says TechServe Alliance, a collaboration of IT and engineering businesses. On year-over-year basis, IT employment has grown by 3.2% since June 2013, adding 144,200 IT workers, the alliance reports. “IT employment has been on an upward trajectory for some time,” said Mark Roberts, CEO of TechServe Alliance, in a statement. “Given the low unemployment rate in many IT and engineering occupations, we are in the phase of labor market cycle where future growth is more likely to be constrained by an inadequate supply of talent rather than by demand.”

Hiring plans: Positive

Asked about hiring plans for the next six months, 14% of CIOs said they plan expand their teams in the last half of 2014, according to Robert Half Technology (RHT). (When RHT asked the same question at the start of 2014, 16% were planning to add more staff to their departments.) Another 76% expect to hire only for open IT roles, compared to 67% in the first six months of the year. Meanwhile, the number of CIOs who plan to put a hold on hiring is declining -- 8%, compared to 15% in the previous survey. Just 1% expect to reduce their IT staffing levels (compared to 2% at the start of 2014). RHT polled 2,400 CIOs from 24 U.S. markets for its six-month hiring outlook.

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Less bullish is TEKsystems, which says hiring expectations for full-time employees have slowed since the start of the year. Heading into 2014, 47% of IT leaders told TEKsystems they planned increases in full-time hiring. By the end of June 2014, that number had fallen to 31%. Midway through the year, 56% expect full-time hiring to stay the same as in 2013 (up from 44% at the start of the year), and 13% expect full-time hiring to decrease (up from 9%).

IT headcount: Rising

Computer Economics also sees more companies reducing headcount than RHT reports. But, it still forecasts a net positive gain for IT headcount. More than half (53%) of IT organizations are increasing IT staff headcount this year in “the most positive sign for IT job growth since the beginning of the recession,” according to the firm’s new IT Spending and Staffing Benchmarks study. (Thirty-one percent report no changes to headcount, and 17% expect headcount to decrease.)

“The hiring is primarily concentrated in larger organizations, as it has been,” said Frank Scavo, president of Computer Economics. “But the rise in the median is a good sign that the recovery is broadening its base to include more midsize companies and additional sectors.”

In terms of the overall employee population, IT staff headcount will rise 1%, a gain which Computer Economics describes as “significant movement for an indicator that has remained flat since 2007.” The financial services sector will have the highest rise in IT staff headcount at 5%, followed by healthcare providers at 3.9%.

IT pay: Salaries inch up

On the salary front, the news is positive -- though only marginally. Between June 2013 and June 2014, the total mean compensation for all IT professionals increased 0.33% from $79,112 to $79,376, according to Janco Associates. “This puts overall compensation back at the levels they were at in January 2008 and 2007,” the firm states. In midsize enterprises, the mean total compensation increased from $75,727 to $76,241, and in large enterprises, median compensation rose from $82,498 to $82,511.

Finding talent: Challenging

Among the CIOs polled by RHT, 61% said it’s somewhat or very challenging to find skilled IT professionals. The areas where it’s hardest to find skilled talent are applications development (cited by 17%), networking (17%) and security (12%). When asked which skills sets are in greatest demand within their IT departments, CIOs called out network administration (57%), database management (52%), and desktop support (52%).

Compensation: Companies pressured to up the ante

A healthier hiring environment is putting upward pressure on compensation, according to Dice’s semi-annual hiring survey. Among 700 respondents, 59% said some positions are going unfilled because of salary guidelines for the job. Tech pros appear to be waiting for the right position and the right pay: 32% of hiring managers and recruiters said more tech candidates are rejecting offers, as compared to six months ago; and 61% said candidates are asking for more money, as compared to six months ago, Dice reports.

In a separate survey sponsored by CareerBuilder, companies appear to understand they’re going to have to adjust their salary and skills expectations. Just 20% of IT employers believe they’re offering “extremely or very” competitive pay; 44% said they would consider increasing compensation for tough-to-fill roles; and 53% have open positions for which they can’t find qualified candidates, according to the CareerBuilder data.

Likewise, CultureFit Technology Staffing found gaps between the salaries and benefits offered and what IT candidates consider to be acceptable. “Based on the competitive hiring situation, companies should plan to increase compensation budgets between 10% and 15% year over year until the gap between open jobs and available talent begins to narrow,” said Adam Kooperman, president of CultureFit, in the firm’s report.

Hiring scene: IT pros looking

Among IT pros surveyed by CultureFit, 40% are actively seeking new employment.

Salaries: CIOs and CTOs highest paid

According to Mondo’s annual technology salary guide, 32% of hiring managers plan to increase their IT budgets in the next 12-18 months. The firm also reported the top five technology jobs with the highest salaries in 2014: CIOs and CTOs ($150,000-$230,000); chief security officer ($135,000-$200,000); augmented reality consultant ($70,000-$175,000); application architect ($130,000-$170,000); and Scala developer ($115,000-$170,000).

Other top-salaried positions detailed by Mondo are: Java/J2EE developer ($95,000-$165,000); VP, engineering ($120,000-$165,000); VP, information technology ($130,000-$165,000); Salesforce developer ($99,000-$160,000); director, PMO ($110,000-$160,000); and project manager ($105,000-$160,000).

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