Report Says IT Hiring Should Remain Positive Due To Business Growth

May 25, 2004 (01:05 PM EDT)

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The number of CIOs looking to increase their IT staff is forecast to dip in the third quarter, but hiring should remain positive because of expected business growth, a recruiting company said Tuesday.

A national poll of 1,400 CIOs from U.S. companies with at least 100 employees found 8% expecting to hire IT workers in the next quarter, Robert Half Technology said, while just 3% plan to decrease staff. The large majority of CIOs, 88%, expect to maintain existing staff levels.

The latest projection, with 5% more CIOs expecting to add workers than decrease their number, is less than the second quarter, when a net 9% of CIOs expected a hiring increase, the highest level in two years, Robert Half said in its quarterly report. Nevertheless, signs pointed to a positive job market, as business expansion for the third consecutive quarter remained the leading reason for IT hiring.

The survey also found that the largest companies were most optimistic about hiring. Microsoft Windows administration remained the skill set most in demand by CIOs, and the strongest employment growth is forecast in the West North Central and Mid-Atlantic regions.

But there's no indication that hiring will return to the worker heyday of the late 1990s, when unemployment reached record lows, Robert Half said. Instead, companies are cautiously adding staff and hiring temporary workers to restart projects that were on hold during the recession.

Nevertheless, 51% of CIOs planning to increase staff cited more business as the primary reason. That's up from 46% in the second quarter and 37% in the first quarter.

System upgrades and a need for more customer and user support were the second most-cited reason for more hiring, each receiving 13% of the response.

Large companies were more likely to hire than smaller companies. A net 15 percent of CIOs in companies with more than 1,000 employees said they planned to increase staff.

Windows administration was the technical skill set needed by 84% of survey respondents, with Visual Basic development cited by 46% of CIOs. Check Point firewall administration ranked third with 41%.

The most sought-after specialty among CIOs was networking, with 25% of respondents listing a need for the skill set. Security improvement was the leading reason for the demand.

CIOs in the West North Central states led the country in hiring expectations, with 12% planning to increase staff, and none expecting decreases. Those states include Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Mid-Atlantic states were second, with 8% of CIOs looking for talent. Those states include New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

Among industries, the business-services sector was most optimistic about hiring, with a net 13% of CIOs expecting to boost staffing. Wholesale, finance, insurance, and real estate industries were second with a net 8 percent.