Women are making gains in booming tech-consulting market

National unemployment rate among tech pros is at 3.5 percent, though the rates vary significantly by job function

While the average unemployment rate for technology professionals is a mere 3.5 percent -- significantly lower than the national average of 7.7 percent -- the rates vary by job function. Among Web developers, it's just 1.0 percent, whereas programmers will see a rate of around 6.3 percent. Meanwhile, there's been a surge in technology-consulting positions, and women are grabbing a relatively high number of those new jobs.

Such are the data points the folks at Dice.com culled from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest unemployment numbers. Overall, there's been a shift in the tech job market since Q1 2012, when the unemployment for technology pros was at 4.4 percent, compared to the national average of 8.3 percent.

Women are making gains in booming tech-consulting market

On the tech-consulting front, U.S. companies have created 543,500 new positions since March 2004, the last time the unemployment rate for IT pros exceeded the national average. In the first quarter of this year alone, 17,200 new consulting positions emerged. Whereas consulting jobs have increased significantly over the past nine years, the same can't be said for computer and electronics manufacturing; there's been a loss of 236,300 jobs over the past nine years. What's more, 17,000 gigs in data processing and hosting have been shed.

As to why the number of consulting jobs has continued to rise, Dice attributes the trend to the fact that "companies want to remain flexible because there continues to be a fair amount of economic uncertainty," Dice VP of corporate communications Jennifer Bewley told InfoWorld. "Shortages in particular fields also drive companies to utilize consulting firms to push projects through."

In regard to the economic uncertainty, Bewley noted that temp jobs are accelerating across the board. "In February, those temp positions grew 5 percent year-over-year; now it's 6 percent. That may seem small, but the sequential increase was more than two times what one would expect between those two months," she said.

Notably, women -- traditionally underrepresented in the tech field -- have made significant gains on the consulting front, according to Dice. The number has grown by 156,100 over the past nine years, and around 46 percent of the new consulting positions created in Q1 were awarded to women. Still, women represent a steady 31 percent of the U.S. tech workforce.

According to Dice, the jump in women landing tech-consulting job means "the position gap is still evident, even if the like-for-like pay gap has disappeared." Indeed, according to InfoWorld blogger Bill Snyder, equal pay for equal work is a reality in IT, but few women rise to the higher positions, and overall inequity is worsening.

Dice provided a breakdown of the current unemployment rates among various tech-job functions as of the end of Q1:

  • Programmers are suffering the highest unemployment rate among technology pros, at 6.3 percent
  • Computer support specialists are at around 5.7 percent
  • For computer-systems analysts, the unemployment at the end of Q1 was 3.7 percent
  • Among computer and information systems managers, the rate is at 3.5 percent
  • Network and system administrators are seeing an unemployment rate is 3.1 percent
  • For database admins, it's around 2.8 percent
  • The rate for software developers is at 2.2 percent
  • Network architects have an average unemployment rate of 1.7 percent
  • Web developers have the lowest unemployment rate on the list at 1.0 percent

Advocates who favor increasing the number of H-1B visas -- including Microsoft, Facebook, Dropbox, and Yahoo -- will certainly point to the relatively low unemployment rate among techies to advance their agenda. The argument: A low unemployment rates translates to a shortage of skilled IT workers, which in turn necessitates importing talent from overseas. According to Economic Policy Institute immigration policy analyst Daniel Costa, however, the traditional full unemployment rate for computer scientists and engineers traditionally peaks at around 2 percent, based on BLS data.

This article, "Women are making gains in booming tech-consulting market," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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