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Like a bowl of milk sitting in the summer sun, the mood among IT professionals turned sour in August, according to a report released on Wednesday by Hudson, a professional staffing and outsourcing firm that conducts monthly surveys to track job optimism levels among workers in several sectors.
After plummeting to a low in May, job confidence levels among IT workers crept up in June and July. However, in August, the Hudson Employment Index for IT workers plunged again, this time 12.4 points to 97.5, down from 109.9 in July.
August is only the second time IT job confidence levels sank below the base score of 100, which was established when Hudson began taking its monthly phone surveys in January 2004. The only other time the IT job confidence level sank below 100 was in May, when optimism hit an all-time low of 93.2.
Every month, Hudson surveys about 9,000 workers--including more than 500 IT pros--in several sectors, which also includes health care, manufacturing, finance, and accounting.
Nationally, optimism levels among workers in all sectors also fell in August, to an all-time national low since the surveys began--although not as low as the confidence levels of IT workers. The national index in August fell 5.5 points to 98.2, also only the second time the national index fell below 100.
Workers in the accounting and finance sector were the most optimistic, with a score of 101.9, followed closely by health care at 101.4. The manufacturing index kept up with its habit of posting the lowest score, this time at 85.2.
Hudson executives attributed the decline to worker concerns about personal finances and worries about layoffs.
"Industry consolidations are becoming more prevalent and may be worrying workers," said Vic Velevis, director of Hudson's IT and telecom practice, in an E-mail interview with InformationWeek. Also, "companies that have not yet outsourced any business functions are now reassessing their workforce and reconsidering this option," he said.
While it wasn't too surprising that the IT index declined in August, the steepness of the drop was somewhat unexpected, he said.
"Summer always tends to be a slow time for hiring and the economy," he said. "Companies that don't meet their quarterly numbers during the first half of the year tend to implement hiring freezes. This year, the seasonal factors were exaggerated by the record-breaking gas prices."
Not everyone in the IT sector should feel gloom, however, Velevis said. Hudson expects the fall will continue to bring heavy demand for skills sets that include experience with enterprise-resource planning-applications, particularly SAP, .Net programming, voice-over-IP for telecom, and for project managers overall.