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Westward leading, still proceeding in tech hires

CIOs expect to add staff early next year, and California is generating the most new U.S. tech jobs, two reports say. Map: Today's tech job hot spots

Techies looking for jobs, especially those in California, have reason to be hopeful, according to a pair of new reports.

Chief information officers of U.S. companies expect a modest rise in information technology hiring in the first quarter of 2005, staffing firm Robert Half Technology said in a study released Wednesday. Eleven percent of more than 1,400 executives polled plan to add IT staff early next year, and 2 percent anticipate cutbacks.

Many of the expected new jobs could be in California, if a pattern identified by job search service NimbleCat continues. California is the dominant producer of new IT jobs in the United States, and the state increased its share of newly created IT jobs in November to more than 28 percent, NimbleCat reported Tuesday. Its study was based on an analysis of software and IT jobs posted to major job boards.

"Companies continue to take a slow and steady approach to hiring," Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology, said in a statement. "Firms are adding full-time employees only when there is a vital need, such as developers who can customize applications or business analysts who can evaluate IT requirements and align them with organizational goals. Employers aren't willing to risk layoffs by expanding their teams too quickly."

The reports add to a mixed set of data about the job scene for technology professionals, who weathered massive job cuts after the bust of the dot-com bubble and face the threat of offshoring, the buzzword for the transfer of high-skilled jobs to lower-wage nations. Online ads for tech jobs have increased, the U.S. economy has added technology services jobs, and analysts are warning companies to take steps to retain prized workers as the job market tightens.

But not all the news over tech jobs is upbeat. The number of payroll jobs in computer and electronics product manufacturing in November dropped by 3,800 to 1.34 million. That figure has been falling since August. In addition, technology workers' confidence in the job market fell in November as layoff fears rose.

Robert Half said the net 9 percent of CIOs expecting a hiring increase is up 3 percentage points from the previous quarter's forecast and 6 percentage points ahead of the projection a year ago. The staffing firm also said that for the fifth consecutive quarter, executives cited business expansion as the primary cause of IT hiring.

Networking remains the specialty most in demand, and executives at the largest firms--those with 1,000 or more employees--are most optimistic about IT hiring activity, according to Robert Half, whose report dovetailed with NimbleCat's finding regarding California.

CIOs in the Pacific and "west south central" regions expect the strongest employment growth, Robert Half said. The company defines the Pacific region as the states of Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington. The west south central area consists of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.

NimbleCat's report said software engineers, software managers and program managers continued to be the top three categories for new U.S. tech jobs in November.