IT hiring expected to increase for fourth quarter

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Eleven percent of chief information officers (CIOs) surveyed for the Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report expect to add staff in the fourth quarter of 2008, and 3 percent forecast personnel reductions. The net 8 percent increase compares with a net 10 percent increase projected last quarter. The majority of respondents, 83 percent, plan to maintain current staffing levels.

The IT Hiring Index and Skills Report is based on telephone interviews with more than 1,400 CIOs from companies across the United States with 100 or more employees. It was conducted by an independent research firm and developed by Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis.

Key Findings

  • Increased customer and/or end-user support was cited as the leading reason for Information Technology (IT) hiring, replacing business growth, which had been named by CIOs as the primary driver of IT hiring in each of the past 22 quarters.
  • Help desk/technical support was cited as the job area experiencing the most growth.
  • Firms in the Middle Atlantic (New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania) region are most optimistic about IT hiring.
  • Technology executives in the transportation industry forecast the strongest hiring activity.

"Companies are being judicious with their hiring plans, evaluating economic conditions and business demands before adding full-time IT staff," said Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology. "Organizations are directing recruitment efforts toward professionals who can provide essential services - such as help desk and networking - and support the launch of Web 2.0 based functionality."

For the first time since the question was asked in the second quarter of 2003, increased customer service and/or end-user support (25 percent of the response) overtook business growth (23 percent) as the main reason firms are hiring IT staff. Installation or development of new enterprisewide applications came in third, with 21 percent of the response.

Skills in Demand

Network administration (LAN, WAN) is the technical skill set in strongest demand, according to 70 percent of CIOs. This was followed closely by Windows administration (Server 2000/2003) and desktop support, each at 69 percent. (Note: CIOs polled were allowed multiple responses.)

Technology executives cited help desk/technical support as the job area experiencing the most growth, with 18 percent of the response. The strong showing is consistent with research from HDI, the leading association for IT service and support professionals, which found that 45 percent of its members planned to increase help desk/technical support hiring in 2008. Networking, which has held the top spot for the past year in the Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report, slipped to second at 14 percent, followed by data/database management at 11 percent.

Regional Outlook

The Middle Atlantic region is most optimistic about hiring in the fourth quarter, survey results show. Sixteen percent of CIOs plan to expand their IT departments and just 1 percent foresee personnel reductions. The net 15 percent increase is seven points above the national average. "Tier-1 help desk professionals are in strong demand in the Middle Atlantic states, as well as individuals with .NET development and Java 2 Enterprise Edition skills," said Lee. "Companies are quicker to hire IT candidates in this region, particularly at the entry-to-mid-levels, because these professionals are needed for applications support, Web site development and systems upgrades."

Technology executives in the East North Central (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin) region also forecast strong hiring activity. Fifteen percent of CIOs expect to add staff and 2 percent forecast personnel cutbacks, for a net 13 percent increase.

Robert Half Technology has commissioned additional CIO interviews in major metropolitan areas to provide more detailed analyses of IT hiring trends in these markets. The local results are available at

Industry Outlook

Technology executives in the transportation sector, which also includes communications and utilities, forecast the most notable hiring gains in the fourth quarter. Seventeen percent of CIOs plan to add IT staff and 1 percent anticipate personnel reductions, for a net 16 percent increase.

Business services should also see solid IT hiring activity. Fourteen percent of CIOs surveyed plan to add employees and 1 percent foresee staff cutbacks, for a net 13 percent increase. CIOs in the retail and professional services sectors also forecast staffing activity above the national average, with a net 10 percent increase forecast for both industries.

About the Survey

The quarterly IT Hiring Index and Skills Report was developed by Robert Half Technology and conducted by an independent research firm. First published in 1995, the study is based on more than 1,400 telephone interviews with CIOs from a random sample of U.S. companies with 100 or more employees. In order for the study to be statistically representative and ensure that companies from all segments were represented, the sample was stratified by geographic region, industry and number of employees. The results were then weighted to reflect the proper proportions of the number of employees within each region. The margin of error for this study is +/-2.6 percent at the 95 percent level of confidence.

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