• United States
Senior Editor

ITAA sees limited IT job growth in ’04

Sep 08, 20043 mins
Enterprise Applications

The number of U.S. IT jobs increased by just 2% between the first quarter of 2003 and the first quarter of 2004, and demand for IT workers is expected to slow during the rest of the year, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Information Technology Association of America.

The overall size of the U.S. IT workforce grew from about 10.3 million to 10.5 million jobs from 2003 to 2004, according to an ITAA telephone survey of 500 hiring managers from both IT and non-IT companies across the U.S. But hiring managers indicated they will seek to fill a total of 230,000 jobs in 2004, down from a total of about 500,000 IT jobs filled in the past year. The net increase of about 200,000 jobs in the past year takes into account about 300,000 layoffs.

“It’s not the dramatic upturn from the recession many of us had hoped for,” ITAA President Harris Miller said of the survey results.

Among the factors in the slow job growth include U.S. companies’ continuing concerns about the economy, rising costs of health care and other benefits, increasing productivity among workers and offshore outsourcing, Miller said. In March, the ITAA released a study saying only about 2.5% of U.S. IT jobs have been moved overseas. The study also suggested that in the long term, twice as many U.S. jobs will be created than lost because of outsourcing.

The jobs survey, released annually, points to the need for both IT workers and U.S. policies to be competitive globally, Miller said.

“We’ve always admitted theoretically if you closed a wall around the U.S. … you might have more IT jobs in the short term,” Miller said. “But the overall effect on the U.S. economy would be disastrous.”

Nearly 89% of new jobs came from non-IT companies, such as banking, finance, manufacturing, food service and transportation firms. Non-IT companies accounted for 79% of the IT workforce, according to ITAA survey.

Competition for IT jobs points to the need for IT workers to keep their skills current, through coursework and certifications, Miller noted. “The IT workers have an additional burden to be the stewards of their own careers,” he added. “What you knew 10 years ago might have been great 10 years ago and almost useless today.”

Miller compared the changing nature of IT work to the medical or legal professions. Doctors and lawyers are required to update their skills frequently, and to be competitive, IT workers should consider similar continuing education plans, even though they aren’t required to update their skills, Miller said.

Among the findings of the survey, which has a margin of error of 4.4%, are the following:

— Regionally, the Northeast added the largest percentage (5%) of IT jobs. The West actually lost IT employment (0.7%). The South increased 4% over 2003 and remains home to the largest number of IT workers in the U.S., some 3.1 million. IT employment in the Midwest edged up 2.6%.

— The technical support and network system design employment categories saw the largest year-to-year increases in employment, up 5%.

— Employers still put the hiring emphasis on a solid work track record. The best background for IT jobs appears to be previous experience in a related field (46%) and a four-year college degree (41%) in a related field.

— Personality is a major criteria for employment. In the soft skill area, interpersonal skills drew the most votes from companies of all sizes — twice as important as project management or team building.

The ITAA report is available here.