Was IT job growth strong in 2012? Depends on whether you include welders and nurses

New IT job report reveals faulty job-lumping on the part of the Bureau of Labor Statistics

A new report paints a gloomy employment picture for IT professionals, pointing to a mere 2.22 percent growth in tech jobs in 2012. However, if you strip away the data on jobs that shouldn't count as IT -- for such positions as telephone operators, nurses, and welders -- the picture is less grim.

The report comes from Janco Associates, which draws on the freshest Bureau of Labor Statistics data (PDF) to track IT hiring trends in the United States. By the company's reckoning, IT job market growth slowed to 4,200 new jobs in December versus 8,700 added jobs in November. For the entire year, IT gained 62,500 jobs, a 2.22 percent increase from around 2,813,000 to 2,876,000.

Trouble is, some of the job data Janco pulled from the BLS arguably doesn't quite fit the category of IT jobs, and much of that has to do with the way the Bureau itself gathers and presents its data. Here are the datasets the company used:

  • "Computer systems design related services" jobs, a huge category that lumps in computer and mathematical occupations -- developers, DBAs, and network admins -- with decidedly nontechie jobs, such as managers, registered nurses, firefighters, and sales positions. According to BLS, this massive pool of jobs increased by 5.17 percent from 1,558,000 to 1,638,000 in 2012.
  • "Data processing, hosting, and related services" jobs, which include computer programmers, support specialists, systems analysts, and software developers. This pool started year at 242,500 and ended at 240,900, a -0.66 percent change.
  • "Other information services" jobs (editors, first-line supervisors, librarians, library assistants, and library technicians) increased from 166,500 to 170,600 (2.46 percent) during 2012.
  • "Telecommunications" jobs (customer service reps, electronics engineers except computer, first-line supervisors and managers, telecom equipment installers and repairers, and telephone operators) dwindled from 846,900 to 826,400 (-2.42 percent).

For a clearer picture on IT job growth in 2012, at the very least strip away the telecom jobs. Yes, the telecom industry is critical to the delivery of IT services, and there are IT pros working in telecom. But not all telecom jobs are IT jobs, particularly those the BLS lumps into the category. (It excludes computer engineers, for example). If you subtract the Telecommunications jobs from the totals, 2012 started with 1,966,000 IT jobs and ended with 2,049,000 jobs, a 4.3 percent increase.

Even those numbers don't paint a particularly accurate picture. Unfortunately, it gets tricky to strip out other non-IT jobs from here because of the enormous "Computer systems design related services" pool, which includes everything from accountants, auditors, and actuaries to carpenters, childcare workers, firefighters, janitors, paralegals, welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers. You get the idea.

A better pool from which to draw might be the computer and mathematical occupations, which includes computer systems analysts, computer programmers, software developers, database administrators, network and systems administrators, computer support specialists, information security analysts, Web developers, and network architects -- but also non-IT jobs, including mathematicians and statisticians. This category saw a rise in overall jobs from 3,678,000 in Q1 to 3,909,000 at year's end. That's an increase of 231,000 jobs (or for 6.3 percent growth for the year).

As to what the future holds for IT jobs, Janco reported that CIOs are cautiously optimistic that hiring will improve in 2013 and are particularly bullish in the San Francisco Bay Area and Boston. "Few CIOs are looking to hire within the next three months," said Victor Janulaitis, CEO of Janco Associates. "These CIOs are looking for particular sets of skills to meet the demands of mobile computing and toward implementation processes that will support users to use their own personal devices -- BYOD (bring your own device) -- to minimize capital expenditures and improve ROI."

This story, "Was IT job growth strong in 2012? Depends on whether you include welders and nurses ," 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 developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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