Eleven percent of executives polled plan to add staff early next year and two percent anticipate cutbacks. The net nine percent hiring increase is up three percentage points from the previous quarter's forecast and six percentage points ahead of the year-ago projection.
For the fifth consecutive quarter, executives cited business expansion as the primary driver for IT hiring. CIOs in the Pacific and West South Central regions expect the strongest employment growth and networking remains the specialty most in demand.
Executives at the largest firms (1,000 or more employees) are most optimistic about IT hiring activity.
"Companies continue to take a slow and steady approach to hiring," said Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of RHT. "Firms are adding full-time employees only when there is a vital need, such as developers who can customize applications or business analysts who can evaluate IT requirements and align them with organizational goals. Employers aren't willing to risk layoffs by expanding their teams too quickly."
Forty-one percent of CIOs who plan to hire during the first quarter cited business growth as the reason, while 26% require increased customer and end-user IT support.
Systems upgrades and the installation or development of new enterprise wide applications followed, each receiving 10% of the response.
For the third consecutive quarter, technology hiring at large firms continues to outpace the national average. Fifteen percent of CIOs plan to add staff and four percent see declines in personnel.
Skills in Demand
Businesses are actively seeking professionals with Microsoft Windows (NT/2000/XP) administration skills. Forty-six percent of respondents said this expertise was in greatest demand within their IT departments.
Checkpoint firewall administration and wireless network management are also hot specialties, each receiving 15% of the response.
SQL Server management and Cisco network administration were named the most in-demand skill sets by 13% of technology executives, respectively. (Note: Survey respondents were allowed multiple answers.)
When asked which specialties were experiencing the most growth within their IT departments, 20% of CIOs said networking. Information security followed, with 13% of the response, while help desk/end-user support received 11% of the response.
CIOs in the Pacific states are most optimistic about employment gains in the first quarter: 18% expect to add employees and three percent foresee staff cutbacks.
The net 15% hiring increase is up eight percentage points from the region's fourth-quarter forecast and six points above the national average.
Technology executives in the West South Central states also anticipate strong hiring activity during the first three months of the year. Twelve percent of CIOs plan to expand their IT departments and only one percent anticipate personnel reductions, for a net hiring increase of 11%.
The wholesale sector leads all industries in hiring optimism with 16% of CIOs planning to add employees and only two percent forecasting cutbacks. The net 14% hiring increase is five percentage points above the national average.
Technology executives in the retail, business services, and finance, insurance and real estate industries also anticipate notable employment gains. A net 11% hiring increase is forecast in each of the three sectors.
The survey includes responses from more than 1,400 CIOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 100 or more employees. It was conducted by an independent research firm and developed by RHT, a provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis.