These tech skills are recession-proof

* Despite bad economy, some research paints rosy view for tech jobs

Back in April we discussed research that found IT job security was dropping five times faster than the national average. But there's some new research that shows a rosier view, with numerous technology skills being labeled as "recession-proof."

You’re in good shape if you’re skilled in software design and development, networking and system administration, database administration, business analysis software implementations, and software testing. Workers in these five professions were among the top 25 “most wanted U.S. job candidates” in the 120-day period ending July 7, according to an analysis by  Jobfox, a career Web site. (Slideshow: 20 most useful career sites for IT professionals)

Software design and development ranked highest among tech jobs at No. 4, while nurses and sales reps were the most in-demand professionals.

The Jobfox report doesn’t necessarily contradict previous doom-and-gloom research findings. IT and engineering services company Technisource, for example, found that IT worker confidence has plummeted overall but that highly-skilled IT workers are largely still confident in their ability to find jobs.

That’s essentially what Jobfox’s survey reveals – the best IT pros aren’t suffering, but those who haven’t kept up to date with cutting-edge technology might be having trouble. “We think that experienced IT professionals with the cutting-edge skills are the ones that are not having trouble,” says Jobfox spokesman Barry Lawrence.

Skills in Web 2.0 and mobile technology are hot, and employers are often having trouble finding qualified candidates, he says.

“Developers with things like AJAX skills, mobility skills – interfacing with mobile telephones, PDAs, are totally in high demand,” Lawrence says. Employers can easily find inexperienced workers, but it’s difficult to find those who have the right set of technology, people and project management skills, he says.

Jobfox also tracks which jobs are most sought after by candidates. The top 25 list of jobs most wanted by job seekers doesn't contain any of the five technology professions that were most in-demand from the perspective of employers, suggesting the number of candidates isn’t meeting the number of jobs. The professions with the most job seekers were accounting staff, construction, administrative assistants, and customer support.

“Sometimes the most wanted positions are also the ones with the most candidates, and sometimes they’re not,” Lawrence says. “Most of the IT positions, while there’s a high demand from employers, are usually not rated very high in terms of the number of job seekers.”

Jobfox’s findings are based on a random sample of more than 4,000 U.S. job openings posted in its database. Since it’s only a sample, Lawrence said Jobfox wouldn’t be able to tell me exactly how many jobs were posted in each profession.

Another job site, Dice, reports that as of July 1 it was posting 86,988 tech jobs, of which 61,550 are full-time positions. Dice also released new survey findings this month, with some mixed results regarding tech hiring. About 52% of companies that hire tech pros are not changing hiring plans over the next six months. The rest say they will scale hiring down or aren’t sure what they will do.

Another group consisting of staffing, recruiting and consulting companies paints a different picture. About 62% of these staffing firms expect that their clients will cut hiring in the next six months, according to Dice.

Dice survey respondents say it’s taking longer to fill open jobs than it did last year, both because of the bad economy leading to extra caution in hiring and an inability to find qualified tech pros. Forty percent of companies scaling back hiring expect things to turn around before the second half of 2009.

“Layoffs are always a concern in a tepid economy,” Dice says in a monthly report. “Only 4% of companies that hire tech professionals for their own needs believe layoffs are very likely in the next six months, while 13% of [staffing, recruiting and consulting firms] see layoffs looming.”

On Dice, job listings are dominated by operating systems and database skills. As of July 1, there were 15,691 Windows jobs; 12,656 Unix jobs; 17,973 Oracle database jobs; and 13,982 SQL database jobs.

Just one final note to readers. I’ve been writing this newsletter since April, when I took over for Linda Leung, who was on maternity leave. As it turns out, I’ll be writing the newsletter going forward on a more permanent basis. So if there are any career, training or certification questions you want answered or topics you think the newsletter should address, feel free to e-mail suggestions to me.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

IT Salary Survey: The results are in