Career Watch: The IT labor market: Volatile, and no tranquillity in sight

By Jamie Eckle – June 7, 2010 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld –

Q&A: David Foote

The CEO of IT workforce analyst firm Foote Partners LLC explains why high volatility in the IT labor and skills markets will remain long after the economy recovers.

First of all, how are you defining and measuring volatility? Pay and demand for IT skills at more than 2,000 employers in North America that participate in our research. We’ve built several statistical gauges for examining trends in each. The IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index surveys pay premiums earned by 23,000 IT professionals for 438 individual technical and business skills, both certified and noncertified.

Our IT Skills Volatility Index tells us what percentage of these skills are changing in market value, either up or down. We also survey salaries for nearly 100,000 IT workers and a few hundred job titles. All of these are updated continuously, but we tend to analyze labor market trends in three-month increments and have been doing so since 1998. We also stay in regular contact with several hundred IT executives, who provide us with deep-dive perspective that the data itself cannot.

What have you been finding? Quarter-by-quarter skills volatility has been in the 29% to 39% range in the past year and a half. From 2005 to 2008, it averaged only half of that. This index has been swinging back and forth by as much as 10 points over periods as short as three months, which is unprecedented. As for the market values themselves, noncertified skills have shown overall gains in two straight quarters, while average certification pay has been on a steady decline for four years straight. But as you dig deeper into each skill category, consistency is very hard to find. The truth is that IT employment and salaries have been stabilizing, but pay and demand for specific skills and specialized talent remain highly volatile and unpredictable. There are clearly other factors than the recession at work here.

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