Foote Finds Troubling Aspects to Jobs Report

Susan Hall
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Foote Partners CEO David Foote isn't buying that the January jobs numbers were "unambiguously good," as one analyst put it. The Labor Department on Friday announced that 243,000 jobs were added to U.S. payrolls in January, dropping the overall unemployment rate to 8.3 percent from 8.5 percent the previous month and 9.1 percent a year ago.


Foote is troubled by a reported 455,000 workers in January who have completely given up looking for jobs and that companies increasingly are using part-timers rather than hiring for full-time permanent jobs. He found only a net 3,100 tech jobs added during the month in the four categories typically associated with IT work.


While the categories "management and technical consulting services" and "computer systems design and related services" continue to grow, "telecommunications" and "data processing-hosting and related services" are still shedding jobs.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics put the tech unemployment rate at 3.7 percent for 2011, down from 5.3 percent in 2010. From its Current Population Survey data, it discerned that 83,000 IT jobs were created last year. State and local governments continue to shed workers and though federal downsizing primarily is taking place within defense, that could affect a lot of IT workers, Foote points out.


Of the continued reliance on contingent staffing, Foote said:

There is no question that consulting firms and systems integrators are benefiting from external staffing augmentation decisions by lots of employers, plus their increasing interest in managed services and investments in cloud computing as an alternative to acquiring technology skills in house. Among the nearly 2,300 employers we closely track in our own proprietary IT labor research, this shift has given them greater flexibility and faster response times for capitalizing on business opportunities. But these service providers are also having trouble staffing for this demand, especially when it comes to hard-to-find combinations of technical and business skills and experience sufficient to satisfy their customers.

And he calls the market for business-IT hybrids "very robust." In this InfoWorld piece, Foote's partner, Bill Reynolds, explains that once IT workers specialized in the offerings of one vendor, such as Microsoft, Cisco or Novell. Then the push was to encompass multiple vendors in areas such as security. Now it's to understand how technology can best be used in areas such as finance, marketing and accounting.


In a separate report, Foote Partners found pay premiums (not overall pay) on IT certifications on the decline. Premiums declined by 1.2 percent in the final quarter of 2011. It found a gain in overall market value in only one category: architecture/project management/process certifications.


In the fourth quarter of 2011, Foote reports certified skills gaining the most in value included EC-Council certified security analyst, certified wireless network administrator, CompTIA Server+ and HP accredited platform specialist. Noncertified skills showing the biggest gains included a variety of application development skills, including Groovy, Java, Drupal and Ruby - languages used in cloud, mobile and Web applications. Messaging-oriented middleware also gained, as did e-commerce skills such as JavaScript, Joomla and VBScript.


Certified skills showing losses in market value included Oracle/Siebel 7.7 certified consultant, Microsoft certified database administrator and IBM certified specialist in storage networking solutions. Narrow noncertified skills sets, including SAP Business One, SAP Web application server and ColdFusion/ColdFusion MX also experienced similar declines.

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