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IT job outlook grim

The good news is, we know why it’s hard to get a job in IT. 01/09/06 ReleVents hed: IT job outlook grim dek: The good news is, we know why it’s hard to get a job in IT. by James Mathewson

One of the persistent puzzles I have dealt with in my job is the conflict between two supposed facts: 1. Estimates by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) project the demand for IT labor to far outstrip supply (by nearly a million jobs in this country and growing). 2. Nearly every techie I have corresponded with in the past couple of years has complained about how hard it is to find work. While I have commissioned a study trying to debunk the numbers coming from the ITAA, I have yet to disprove their claims.

Small comfort that news on our site today helps explain why it’s been especially hard to find work this year. But behind the numbers, we see that job cuts were also prevalent in 2000, when the tech economy was still in a boom cycle. The telecom sector, for example, saw 38,000 cuts in August 2001, which was 11 percent more than in the same period in 2000. That means there were nearly 35,000 telecom job cuts in 2000, when such telecom equipment giants as Cisco were still trading in the 60s. This only makes sense because information technology is supposed to help companies trim their labor forces by automating routine IT tasks.

In the same time frame, ITAA reported nearly a million unfilled jobs in IT. I think it’s safe to say that the methodology used by the ITAA to calculate unfilled jobs is flawed. The commissioned study cited above suggested that the ITAA interviewed IT hiring managers for its studies. But everyone knows that most companies have a lot of turnover in IT, so there will be instances in which two hiring managers need to fill the same position, but there is at least one available candidate. While the data would suggest a need for two workers in this circumstance, there is actually a need for only one. And in reality, most jobs have dozens of available candidates. If you only count unfilled jobs and do not count available candidates, your methods are flawed. Even amid 200,000-plus downsized IT workers available, the ITAA can still claim hundreds of thousands of unfilled IT jobs based on its data-gathering techniques.

The fact is, the ITAA had an agenda to promote when it conducted its study. It wanted to open up U.S. borders to foreign IT workers so that its member companies could get cheap labor. Now that we know there are hundreds of thousands of unemployed tech workers out there, it’s time to put the ITAA studies behind us and deal with the reality that there are probably many more U.S. IT workers right now than there are available positions. Let’s be honest with the population of folks who dream of the land of IT opportunity. The fact is there are sectors of the economy where jobs will be easier to come by (e.g., construction). If you like IT, by all means go for it. But don’t do it just because you think jobs will be easy to find. That’s simply not true.

James Mathewson is editor of ComputerUser magazine and

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