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Soft landing for IT jobs?

Is it possible that in this hair-raising economy, supply and demand in the IT job market are in balance?

Data out this week suggests that may be so. The latest report from Dice, the online career site, shows a 14% drop in the number of available technology jobs from the same period a year ago — 86,988 as of July 1, compared with 101,438 jobs in 2007.  The year-over-year decline, the largest so far this year, follows the trend of the last six months. The job numbers posted by Dice in 2008 have mostly lagged last year’s totals by between 2% and 12%. Another worrisome fact: the recent months mark the first time since 2003 that jobs listings have gone down.

But if the demand for IT workers is decreasing, so may be the supply of IT workers.

Unemployment in computer-related jobs is near historic lows at 2.3%, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics. Compare that with the 4.7% total unemployment in the last quarter, or 5.5% unemployment figures for June, and IT would seem to be a sweet spot in a sour economy. Or at least the number of people leaving the field appears to be in synch with the demand for IT expertise in this country.

Should we keep waiting for the other shoe to drop? When I reported on jobs in April and the two data points showed the same pattern — a decrease in jobs combined with record-low unemployment — some industry experts like Andrew Bartels of Forrester Research wondered whether the healthy numbers were a leading or lagging indicator of the IT sector.

Copacetic is not a word often paired with the IT industry, but it may be an apt descriptor for what’s happening with IT jobs. Let us know what you’re seeing in your neck of the woods.

Some details from the Dice report:

The July jobs numbers from the Dice Report also come with a note about the perception gap between Human Resource (HR) departments at companies that hire their own IT staff and the staffing, recruiting and consulting firms that dispatch IT employees to workplaces. In short, the majority of the HR professionals (52%) told Dice they anticipate no change in hiring plans for the next six months, while 62% of the staffing, recruiting and consulting outfits expect their clients to cut back on hiring. Interestingly, both groups say it is taking longer to fill positions than a year ago but differ as to why. The HR pros say it takes longer to fill positions because of the scarcity of qualified candidates, while staffing and consulting firms chalk up the lag to a slowdown in hiring, and lack of urgency on the part of employers.

Read on, for the job numbers from the top 10 metro areas for IT employment. Seattle was the sole city in positive territory, with a 7% increase in job listings.

Help wanted: The chart shows the number of job listings as of July 1, 2008, by metro area, and the percentage change compared with the same period a year ago.

2,644    Philadelphia -20%
9,042     New York/New Jersey -17%
4,150    Los Angeles -17%
3,798   Boston -14%
7,347   Washington, D.C. -11%
3,889   Chicago -9%
2826    Atlanta -7%
3,211   Dallas -8%
2,471   Seattle +7%

Source: The Dice Report, July 2008, July 2007

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