There are more IT managers working today than two years ago, but their unemployment rate is rising as well. It's a paradox of government data, but there are theories for the apparent discrepancy.
The government reported that the unemployment rate for computer and information systems managers increased from 2.9 percent in 2011 to 3.2 percent in 2012 and 3.5 percent in the first quarter of this year.
[ Also on InfoWorld: No, women are still not equal to men in IT. | Get expert advice about planning and implementing your BYOD strategy with InfoWorld's 29-page "Mobile and BYOD Deep Dive" PDF special report. ]
But there are more IT managers today with jobs than there were over the past two years. In 2011 there were 553,000 computer and information systems managers counted by the government. That increased to 605,000 last year and then 638,000 in the first quarter of this year.
The employment data, based on an IEEE-USA analysis of hiring in a number of computer-related occupations, was released by the professional group to draw attention to a near doubling of the unemployment rate for electrical engineers to 6.5 percent.
Foote Partners, a research firm that tracks IT employment trends, said that it found a net gain of 11,400 IT jobs last month, representing 13 percent of the 88,000 jobs added to the economy overall. On average, Foote says the U.S. added 14,433 IT jobs per month in the first quarter of this year, up 53 percent from the monthly average of 9,442 in 2012. Foote doesn't count electrical engineers in its estimate.
David Foote, chief analyst at the firm, said reconciling a rise in IT manager hiring with an increase IT manager unemployment may be due to how the government is counting workers. As business models in IT delivery shift, many new types of IT management jobs are being created in lines of business, said Foote. That might involve, for instance, overseeing cloud and SaaS services management operations.
The government may be counting these new IT management jobs. But when it comes to counting the supply of managers on the labor market, the government may be using more rigid or conservative criteria, he said.
Another explanation is offered by Victor Janulaitis, CEO of Janco Associates, which also researches IT hiring. Janulaitis said it's possible that some IT professionals who took different types of jobs during the downturn, may now be trying to return to management positions, which would increase the government's unemployment percentage.
A third explanation may be due to the data itself, at least as far as the first quarter of this year is concerned. The analysts, as well as the IEEE, point out that sample size of the quarterly data is smaller than the full year data. Analysts use different methods and labor categories to assess IT job growth.
Janco estimated that only 5,400 IT jobs were created last month. In a survey of 97 CIOs, the firm concluded that IT hiring is coming to a standstill, as managers become less confident about the economy and impact of the sequester.
Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com.
Read more about IT leadership in Computerworld's IT Leadership Topic Center.