IT job growth in 2016 was at a three-year low

The total number of IT jobs created this year is shaping up to be less than half of what it was in the boom year of 2014

IT job creation in 2016 is looking to hit a three-year low, according to a new report  by IT job market analyst Janco Associates.

With only one month left in 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that a mere 500 jobs were created in the sector in November, bringing the total number of IT jobs created this year to 69,100—substantially down from the 112,800 jobs created in the first 11 months of 2015.

If Janco’s projections hold true, the economy will have added approximately 73,600 IT jobs this year. That’s slightly more than half of last year's totals, and considerably less than half of 2014's numbers.

2016 totals Janco Associates

IT job creation for 2016 is forecast to come in at a three-year low—less than half of 2014's high—even as the rest of the economy has shown steady improvement.

Most of the volatility appears to center around the telecommunications sector, where 26,600 jobs were lost over the past 12 months. That loss put a dent in gains provided by the “computer systems design and related services” and “other information services” sectors—which stood at 82,100 and 15,300 jobs gained, respectively. (The overall vagueness of the BLS categories for tech jobs doesn’t help to clarify the job picture.)

Some of this decline might be blamed on pre-election jitters, but the downward movement in hiring that started in 2015 has since accelerated, even as unemployment figures in the general economy hit multi-year lows of around 5 percent, and labor force participation stopped its multi-year decline.

Janco interviewed over 100 CIOs about their expectations for 2017, and found that many believe “things will improve with the new administration.” They expect hiring to improve across the board after the first three to six months. 

“With all of the propose incentives, from tax cuts for businesses, ‘buy American’, improved trade deals, and immigration reform, we could be in for an economic boom,” said M. Victor Janulaitis, CEO of Janco. “However, the latest IT job data from the [Bureau of Labor Statistics] does not provide any basis for that conclusion.”

President-elect Donald Trump’s policy suggestions in this area, such as they are, haven’t made the picture any clearer. One of his most concrete promises was vowing to investigate “all abuses of the visa programs that undercut the American worker.” This presumably includes the H-1B visa program, which has been cited as an underhanded way for tech companies to obtain cheap labor. The program is already started to receive scrutiny and action in Congress.

However, Trump has also proposed blocking visa applications from “dangerous and volatile regions,” and approving them only for applicants “who share our values and respect our people.” Without any clear objective standard as to how either of those policies would be applied, there’s no way to judge their potential impact. For example, would applicants from China (the recipient of 29,936 visas in 2014) be barred wholesale as part of a Trump administration’s economic bulwark against that country, potentially doing far more harm than good?

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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