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From the counterintutive files: IT demand is...up?

Crazy as it seems, yes. Not everywhere, but the Federal Reserve's latest survey of current economic conditions finds pockets of strength around the country.

The headlines are dreary but parts of the country actually are reporting upticks in demand for IT products and services.


I know. Sounds crazy. What with more than a few on Wall Street ready to contemplate ritual hara-kiri as the economy goes from bad to worse, this sounds implausible. But paging through the Federal Reserve's district-by-district review of current economic conditions, a couple of counterintuitive nuggets suggest that there remain pockets of strength. Consider the following:

•  IT companies serving the districts around Kansas City and Minneapolis describe conditions as "stable to up."

The Minneapolis region particularly benefited from what was described as "solid demand" from clients investing in projects in hopes of reducing costs. (That finding should be sweet music to the technology industry as it echoes the arguments made by proponents that a recession is exactly the wrong time to slow down IT investments.)

•  IT activity in the Boston region has dropped but some firms report "strong revenue growth" over 25 percent.

In New England, the area's IT firms--and this includes both software and services companies--were able to hold their selling prices. This came despite pressure from customers for different payment plans (while at the same time, it appears some clients are taking longer to pay).

"While some firms have reduced headcount and frozen wages, others are making selective hires and intend to give raises in the range of 3 percent to 4 percent," according to the report.

I'll let bigger brains than mine figure out what, if any, all this portends. But on a related note, check out this write-up of the Department of Labor's February jobs report by my ZDNet colleague Larry Dignan. Again, the numbers overall were dreadful as the economy lost 651,000 jobs in February and the unemployment rate ticked up to 8.1 percent. But as Larry notes: "The data indicates that there are more computer systems design and consulting services gigs than a year ago. There are also more communications equipment manufacturing jobs than a year ago."

This bears close watching. With billions of dollars in stimulus money set to pour into the clean-tech industry, maybe hope for the proverbial silver lining isn't entirely a pipe dream.