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IT 'help wanted' listings on hold

Economic downturn brings IT job market to screeching halt

By , Network World
November 25, 2008 09:50 AM ET

Network World - IT professionals looking for work should expect the number of open positions to decline in coming months as those currently employed in high-tech brace themselves for budget cuts, possible pay cuts and of course, layoffs (view a slide show of the largest IT layoffs in 2008).

Despite statistics from earlier this year pointing to job growth across technology sectors, the economic unrest that started in late September and since then has dominated the news has many IT industry-watchers forecasting a slowdown in high-tech job creation through the early part of next year. The big layoffs announced recently by such tech companies as Sun and Nokia don't bode well for the IT job market, but neither do huge workforce cutbacks at such companies as Citigroup that have big IT staffs. 

According to career Web site Beyond.com, IT experienced the largest percentage decrease in jobs during the third quarter with little more than 1% growth, causing IT to fall from the site's top industry position for the first time in six quarters. Now ranked in the second slot, IT positions represent 12.9% of all positions posted on the career site. For instance, the number of Web-developer jobs decreased by nearly 15%, open positions for database administrators fell by 12%, and jobs slotted for system engineers and systems administrators experienced 11.41% and 7.63% decreases respectively. The number of IT-related résumés posted online dropped by more than 2% during the same time, Beyond.com notes.

"The number of open jobs in IT has fallen substantially year over year in key geographies. For instance, we've noticed a 25% decline in open positions in New York and 30% fewer available jobs in Silicon Valley," says Tom Silver, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at technology jobs site Dice.com. "IT had been relatively steady most of the summer through late September, but there has been a significant drop-off in October and November. For the near term, the IT job market has slowed, no doubt."

As recently as mid-October, the American Electronics Association trade group reported that the pace of high-tech job growth slowed to 1.3% between January and July 2008. Then, in mid-November global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported that the economic downturn had reached the tech sector in no uncertain terms: The number of jobs cut by Oct. 31 in the telecommunications, electronics and computer industries totaled 140,422, a 31% increase over the 107,295 tech-sector jobs cut in all of 2007. The firm reported that another 19,779 cuts have been made since the start of the fourth quarter. "In addition to Sun's announcement, Applied Materials and National Semiconductor have announced job cuts in November. By the end of the year, we may also see cuts from Cisco, Qualcomm and Nokia, all of which are reporting falling sales amid the weakening economy," said CEO John Challenger in a statement.

Challenger, Gray predicts the job cuts in 2008 could reach 180,000, which would be the largest annual total since 2003, when technology firms announced 228,325 positions lost.

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