The job market for information technology professionals contracted in January for the first time in more than two years, suggesting that IT workers are facing the same scrutiny as workers in other jobs and sectors as companies slow spending.
The IT sector lost 4,700 jobs last month, according to a report by consulting firm Janco Associates Inc., which based its findings on data from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Until January, IT roles were largely protected from mass layoffs at big tech companies like Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc.
and even firms outside the technology sector, such as the chemical company Dow Inc.
and industrial and consumer goods maker 3M Company
Capital One Financial Corp.
last month laid off about 1,100 employees in the “agile” group in its technology division, which was focused on a software development methodology that uses faster, more flexible processes. The McLean, Virginia-based bank said those roles will be assumed by existing engineering teams and product managers.
The IT jobs that continue to be cut or automated are those in data centers and telecommunications, and technology leaders are looking to cut “non-essential” managers and staff rather than workers with technical skills like engineers, said Victor Ianulaitis, executive director of Janco. .
However, employment in the technology sector as a whole did not decline, according to the IT trade group CompTIA. And despite the slowdown in IT job growth, Janco found that more than 109,000 IT jobs remain unfilled due to a lack of qualified candidates, reflecting the IT skills gap in areas such as cybersecurity and software development.
“There is an oversupply of IT labor that will continue to benefit IT job seekers,” said Christopher Gilchrist, principal analyst at Forrester Research. Inc.
Mr Gilchrist said this demand generally meant IT workers would also be less likely to be redundancies than those in other departments.
Some CIOs say competition for IT talent remains as fierce as ever, and hiring new talent is a priority even as some companies implement cost-cutting measures.
“The war for talent is very real,” said Sriram Sitharaman, CIO of semiconductor software maker Synopsys. Inc.
Mr Sitharaman said developing and attracting talent was a priority, although the company planned to do so “with reduced recruitment costs”.
Other tech leaders like Jason Conyard, CIO of software giant VMware Inc.,
said they are focused on training current staff in new skills such as machine learning and automation, a trend that companies across sectors have been leaning towards amid a tight job market.
“The skills that got us to where we are today are not the same skills that will get us to where we’re going,” Mr Conyard said.
While some businesses are laying off staff, Mr Gilchrist said technology leaders in particular “don’t need to be too aggressive with short-term cuts that will inevitably force them to catch up in the long term”. Instead, they can “reposition” their current staff to focus on the strengths of the business, he said.
Monica Caldas, chief information technology officer at Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., said that while the Boston-based insurer has developed internal training programs in areas such as cloud computing and software development, it remains focused on hiring engineers and those who has data and cyber security skills.
“Not only do we need to provide the capabilities to drive the business forward, but we need the best engineering tools, modern architecture and people in the right roles to respond to changing market conditions,” Ms Caldas said.
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