November 25, 2002 12:25 PM PST

IT demand to remain flat

Information technology professionals, once rewarded with fat salaries and enticing stock options, are having a tough time finding work, and a new study shows little relief ahead.

A report released Monday by IT professional outsourcing firm Robert Half Technology showed chief technology officers in U.S. companies expect few changes in their IT work force size next quarter. The poll surveyed more than 1,400 CIOs from companies with 100 or more employees.

The results of the survey showed a marked contrast to the go-go years of nearly three years ago, when companies were going to great extremes to hire IT professionals. But as the market crashed and companies began to pull back on IT spending, a number of tech jobs began to dry up. And the soft IT job market doesn't seem to be getting any better. From the survey, 86 percent of the CIOs said they don't plan to add IT staff.

"Companies remain hesitant to make major technology investments," Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director with Robert Half, said in a statement.

There were some bright spots in the study, however. Biotech, financial services and health care companies in the Northwest and Southern California show the greatest promise for IT job opportunities in the first quarter, according to Robert Half.

"While the Silicon Valley remains in a downturn (these industries) in the Northwest and in Southern California are expanding and reporting demand for IT personnel," Lee said. "In addition, firms trying to utilize customer data more efficiently are seeking individuals skilled in designing data warehouses."

Other areas of hiring activity include network security-related jobs, as well as positions that include upgrading existing equipment or helping retain customers via improved access to online account information, Lee said.

The financial services and real estate industries are expecting the greatest hiring activity next quarter, according to the survey. While 73 percent of the CIOs reported they anticipate no change, a net gain of 20 percent of those surveyed indicated they plan to enlarge their IT staffs.

Meanwhile, the wholesale and business services industries both anticipate a 14 percent net gain in new IT personnel. Overall, however, 78 percent of the CIOs in wholesale reported they have no personnel changes planned.

CIOs in retail who will be changing their work force anticipate a 12 percent net gain in new IT hires. But 86 percent do not expect to add or reduce their retail IT work force, according to the report.

 

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