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Study sees IT worker shortage in 2002

Demand for technology workers could rebound this year, according to a new survey, but hiring managers say good people will be hard to find.

Demand for technology workers could rebound this year after their ranks were thinned by 5 percent last year, according to research released Monday.

After a year of massive layoffs in the tech sector, hiring managers now say they may be unable to fill as many as 600,000 tech jobs in 2002, according to a survey by the Information Technology Association of America.

"We were pleasantly surprised by the optimism of hiring managers," ITAA president Harris Miller said. "It's been a tough year, but the worst is behind us."

Despite the pool of approximately 2 million U.S. programmers, the survey of more than 500 managers found that many will be unable to find qualified applicants.

The number of technology jobs in the United States shrank about 5 percent last year, falling from 10.4 million workers to 9.9 million as the economy contracted. The majority of those laid off were technical-support workers, even though software programmers and engineers represented the largest category of IT workers, making up 21 percent of the total work force.

But for the rest of 2002, managers said they anticipate a shortage of IT workers at both high-tech and non-tech companies. The managers said they expect that more than 1.1 million tech jobs will be available, but they predict they will be unable to fill some 578,000 of those positions. Part of the discrepancy arises from a consistent "gap" between supply and demand of IT workers of around 50 percent during the past three years, despite the fact that demand fell off during the recession.

Residents of California's Silicon Valley, which was seen as the heart of the tech boom, may not be so lucky.

IT industry says more jobs are coming
Harris Miller, president, Information Technology Association of America

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Demand for IT workers in the West fell the sharpest, down 71 percent between 2000 and 2002. In 2000, 237,000 jobs out of 456,000 openings went unfilled. This year, managers predict that 131,000 IT jobs will be available in the West, with 62,000 going unfilled.

The reason may be a sharper decline in jobs at high-tech companies as opposed to non-IT companies. Since Silicon Valley is home to many tech companies, it has been hit harder.

The study by the ITAA, an Arlington, Va.-based association of high-tech employers, showed that IT companies laid off around 15 percent of their tech workers last year, and non-IT companies shed only 4 percent of their tech workers. A February study by The Boyd Company, which advises companies on location planning, also noted that San Francisco was suffering an exodus as high-tech companies are relocating to cheaper areas such as Baltimore and Canada.

The study advised job seekers that the most fertile ground for IT jobs are companies with more than 1,000 employees, and that the most needed programming skill is C++, followed by Oracle, SQL, Java and Windows NT.

Another place IT workers may find luck is with employers that specialize in outsourcing for non-tech companies, Miller said. As traditional companies like banks start to put new projects back in the budget, "more and more are realizing that outsourcing is the way to go."