IT job growth slows, but pay is up for specialists

IT job growth slows, but pay is up for specialists
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According to Foote Partners, IT job growth in January 2016 was the worst in nearly a year and a half, but extra pay inched up at the end of 2015

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In multiple reports, business consultant Foote Partners is offering mixed perspectives on the IT job market, with job growth slowing but some talented IT professionals still seeing a jump in extra pay.

January was the worst month for IT employment since August 2014, with only 5,500 jobs added, according to this month's analysis U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics by Foote Partners. But the firm remains optimistic.

The net increase across four job segments associated with technology professionals was less than the 6,100 jobs added in December and significantly less than the 11,300 jobs added in November, Foote Partners said. There was a monthly average of 12,300 jobs added in 2015. But not to worry, a company official said.

"Traditionally there's a jump in labor demand in January following a dip in December when people take vacations and businesses are preparing to the start of a new year," Chief Analyst David Foote said in an emailed statement. "Although this did not appear to be the case this year, it's still a fact that 147,600 IT jobs were created in 2015 and nearly as many the year before that, and this has been very good news for the IT professionals." Given the strength of U.S. wages in the last six months -- the best extended period of employee paychecks since the recovery began 6.5 years ago -- the company still thinks IT labor is moving in the right direction overall. 

Of the four segments, management and technical consulting services added 2,200 jobs, much less than the average of 4,400 jobs in 2015. Computer Systems Design/Related Services accounted for 3,400 jobs last month, paling in comparison to the 6,842 monthly average in 2015. The other two segments, Telecommunications and Data Processing, Hosting and Related Services, collectively lost 100 net jobs in January. These two segments had averaged a growth of 1,058 jobs monthly last year. IT employment, Foote Partners said, appears to be under pressure though economists suggest the American economy is holding up well against a slowdown in China, turmoil in the stock market, and growing risks in emerging markets.

Meanwhile, in Foote's other report issued this month, the company said talented IT professionals saw a 0.7 percent jump in extra pay from October 1 through the end of the year, with Foote Partners factoring in 835 certified and noncertified IT and business skills. This contributed to an overall rise of 3.3 percent in IT skills and certification pay premiums last year. The average market value for 395 IT certifications has increased for 11 consecutive months, Foote partners said, and cash premiums for IT professionals rose an average of 3.6 percent in 2015.

The data on premium pay comes from an update to the Foote Partners IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index, which was based on data from 2,815 North American private and public sector employers. Average market values for 395 IT certifications has increased for 11 consecutive quarters.

When it comes to certified skills, information security, database certifications, and application development/programming language skill sets all saw pay premium gains, while no change was seen for Web development and foundation and training certifications. Networking and communications, systems administration/engineering and architecture/project management/process certifications underwent slight losses.

Drilling down further, Foote Partners found that cash premiums rose nearly 6 percent in market value for 74 certified and noncertified big data skills and certifications. Those with devops skill sets saw an average gain of 7.1 percent in market value during the past six months, but pay is eroding for cloud skills even as demand continues. Market values for 76 information security certifications have risen slowly and steadily for two years.

Market values for noncertified IT professionals increased just 0.1 percent over the last quarter of 2015, but it was still the fourth consecutive quarterly rise for noncertified IT professionals and 36th quarterly gain in 44 quarters. The increase for the entire year was 3.2 percent. Gains were driven by database, application development, operating systems, and management/methodology process skills.

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