What happens to IT hiring if Congress self-destructs?

If Congress fails to agree on a debt ceiling limit and the U.S. defaults, it seems clear enough that a series of disastrous things will occur, including rising interest rates and higher unemployment.

IT budgets and hiring are certain to be hurt by this folly, but it may take a few months, based on recent history, for the true impact to appear. In September, 2008, after the stock market nosedived and investment banks failed, IT hiring continued to rise until November. But by early 2009, companies were shedding IT jobs by the thousands. Even if Congress and the president reach an agreement, the scale of the cutbacks on federal spending may lead to their own cuts. For a preview of what could happen in a default, consider Minnesota, which shut down its government July 1 after a budget dispute. The state’s central IT agency, with nearly 350 employees, furloughed 75% of its workers. But, so far, IT employment has been improving.  Here are some of the IT employment figures by category for the second quarter of this year. This information came from the IEEE-USA.

  • The first figure is the number employed and the second is the unemployment rate.
  • Computer systems analysts, 452,000, 1.6%
  • Information security analyst, 43,000, no percentage of unemployed was listed because the sample size is too small.
  • Computer programmers, 440,000, 3.6%
  • Software developers, 1,064,000, 3.8%
  • Web developers, 190,000, 4.8%
  • Computer support specialists, 432,000, 8.4%
  • Database administrators, 144,000, 1.9%
  • Network and computer system administrators, 265,000, 1.5%
  • Computer network architects, 100,000, 0.8%
  • Computer occupations, all others, 343,000, 1.7%
  • Computer hardware engineering, 67,000, 2.2%
  • Electrical and electronics engineering, 303,000, 3.7%
  • For all computer occupations, the unemployment rate is 3.5%
  • The unemployment rate in 2010 for all computing professionals was at 5.4%

The only job category in the 2011 numbers with high unemployment is computer support specialists at 8.4%. Computer support is one of the leading areas for offshore outsourcing. There are arguments that the Labor Dept. data doesn’t reflect true IT demand, and that there are new kinds of IT jobs being created that don’t fit into any of the categories. Some believe IT employment is being undercounted by a figure ranging in the millions. This may be true, but even the miscounted jobs will disappear if the economists are right about the impact of a default. Most people believe, hopefully not foolishly, that Congress will reach an agreement, but if they don’t the second quarter IT employment numbers may be the best of 2011.


Source: ComputerWorld,    Author: Patrick Thibodeau