The IT job market is headed into a slowdown with CIOs reluctant to hire because of uncertainties over how to plan their 2014 IT budgets.
Management consulting firm Janco Associates, Inc. looked at Bureau of Labor Statistics data and conducted interviews with 84 CIOs to assemble its monthly IT job market report, and the news isn't good. The U.S. IT job market lost 3,600 jobs in September, and it only added a total of 77,600 jobs in that sector since the beginning of the year.
Two-thirds of the CIOs interviewed stated they need new network infrastructure for their businesses, the report says, but are reluctant to spend more or hire new employees. Uncertainty about the Jan. 1 sequester and the new health care law, as well as more general worries about the direction of the economy, were both cited as big reasons for holding off on hiring.
Some of the picture may be skewed by how the BLS reports IT statistics and how Janco selects and interprets that data. For one, Janco's number-crunching focuses on four labor markets generally associated with "nuts and bolts"-style IT: telecommunications, data processing/hosting, computer systems design, and the catchall category "other information services." Tech jobs outside of those fields, such as manufacturing, aren't included.
And telecom jobs aren't always fair to include as IT jobs, even if that sector has enjoyed a roughly 5.6 percent increase over the past 12 months. Janco's report also doesn't include hiring under the generic header of "computer and mathematical occupations," which added some 57,000 jobs over the course of 2013 so far. Then again, such work is highly specialized and generally doesn't show up on the radar of most CIOs.
Janco's report is echoed to some degree by the data harvested by trade group TECNA (Technology Councils of North America). It polled 1,700 technology executives and found a slightly greater interest in adding staff over the next 12 months than Janco's surveys did, but it found the same hesitations about hiring because of economic uncertainty. Among TECNA respondents, 69 percent were also worried about a lack of qualified technology workers -- the "STEM crisis" -- although it's been debated if said crisis is actually a symptom of poor IT hiring and not its cause.
Outside of IT alone, the larger tech picture (including manufacturing and engineering) is a bit healthier. TechAmerica's previously released tech industry job report for the first half of 2013 saw 103,000 jobs added from January through June. But BLS statistics for software publishers, Internet publishing and Web search, and "other" information services show either little net gain or some loss since midyear (although all are trending upward year-over-year).
It'll be all the harder to guess the overall health of the sector through the end of the year no thanks to the unpredictable effects of the government shutdown on hiring. The tech sector shrugged while the government was shuttered, but the silent and more long-term impacts may not show up until next year, especially when the furlough looms in January.
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