Bleak outlook for US IT jobs

May 07 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

The outlook for IT workers in the USA remains bleak according to new research by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA). Hiring . , and failing a dramatic turnaround in the US economy, a recovery in the IT sector in 2003 will most likely continue to be a 'jobless' one.

Meanwhile, more than one in ten IT companies are also looking at moving jobs to countries with cheaper labour costs.

The only glimmer of hope in the study is that the total number of IT jobs in the US seems to have levelled off - the number of layoffs is no longer outpacing new hires.

The telephone survey of 400 hiring managers from IT and non-IT companies nationwide found that predicted demand for hiring IT workers has reached an historic low of only 493,000 positions over the next 12 months – down from 1.6 million at the start of 2000 and less than one-half of the predicted 1.1 million positions needed at the start of 2002. Sixty-seven percent of those interviewed said they thought hiring demand would stay the same or decline over the next twelve months.

The trend towards moving IT jobs overseas also seems to be accelerating, with 12 per cent of IT companies and 3 per cent of non-IT companies saying they have already opened up overseas operations. Large IT companies were most likely to say they’ve made this move – 22 per cent have already moved work offshore. Additionally, 15 per cent of IT firms say they will, or are undecided about, moving jobs overseas in the next twelve months, while 4 per cent of non-IT firms say the same.

Sixty-seven percent of respondents already outsourcing IT work overseas say that jobs most likely to be moved offshore are programming or software engineering positions, followed by 37 per cent moving network design, and 30 per cent moving web development jobs.

The ITAA annual survey placed the size of the US IT workforce at 10.3 million, with hiring and terminations amounting to less-than-one-percent growth during first quarter of 2003, with the IT workforce growing by 86,000. While that is good news, it is below fourth quarter 2002 growth, which added 97,000 jobs, the slowest quarterly growth in 2002.

“If the demand for IT workers is an indicator of business growth, our survey results are not encouraging,” commented ITAA President Harris N. Miller. “The fact that firms have dramatically scaled back force reductions may indicate that they are properly staffed to handle existing and new business. There are several bright points, such as companies adding technical support workers at the highest levels and the fact that most workers are not seeing pay cuts.”