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Information Technology: Lots of Jobs Available, But Enough IT Workers To Fill Them?

March 11, 2013 by Luke Mason

The almost-insatiable demand for information technology (IT) workers is hardly a secret. Tech companies, including EMSI, are constantly looking for talented web developers and programmers, and recruiters from a wide swath of industries also feel the pain when it comes to finding IT talent.

John Zappe wrote last month at ERE.net that the market for IT workers is expected to tighten nationwide this year. As Rona Borre, CEO of Instant Technology LLC, told Crain’s Chicago Business, it’s “the tightest I’ve seen it since the tech boom in the late 1990s.”

We’ve written plenty in the last year about IT jobs, the pipeline of graduates, and the surprisingly stagnant wages nationally for software engineers and programmers from 2004-2010. In this post, we’ll take a fresh look at IT supply and demand with the most current labor market data available from EMSI and other sources.

Wages: Still Not Rising

Of all IT fields, software developers and programmers in general are most in-demand. But wages in the U.S. for programmers aren’t trending upward like you would expect given the hard-to-find-talent landscape and apparently limited supply of these workers. In fact, median annual salaries* declined from 2009-2011:

Applications software developers saw a 2.7% drop in real wages, slightly more than computers programmers (-2.4%) and systems software developers (-1.4%). The BLS will release 2012 data in May, so these numbers are lagging — but they’re still surprising. If employers are having a hard time finding developers, salaries should be rising.

Perhaps firms are trying to pay below market-determined wages for developers, a trend Peter Cappelli discusses in his book on the so-called skills gap. Writes Cappelli, “When I hear stories about the difficulty in finding applicants, I always ask employers if they have tried raising wages, which in many cases have not gone up in years. The response is virtually always that they believe their wages are high enough. But—and it’s a big but—this doesn’t reflect a skill shortage. It simply means that employers are not paying the market wage.”

* The BLS discourages using OES data to compare wages over time, specifically for reasons outlined here.

Supply and Demand: A Relative Balance

California, Virginia, Texas, Washington — these are a few of the states that we identified as having a potential undersupply of new IT workers coming into the workforce. But the national picture isn’t as out of whack as you might expect. The latest data from EMSI and the National Center for Education Statistics actually indicates a slight oversupply — there were 152,950 graduates in IT-related programs in 2011 compared to 147,156 job openings (new jobs plus turnover) estimated for this year.

The most openings among IT occupations are projected for computer support specialists (28,031), followed by applications software developers (20,925):

SOC CodeIT Occupation2012 Jobs2013 Projected JobsProjected ChangeProjected % ChangeAnnual OpeningsMedian Hourly EarningsEducation Level
15-1159Computer Support Specialists662,550672,75910,2092%28,031$23.58Associate's degree
15-1132Software Developers, Applications580,466595,03314,5673%20,925$42.92Bachelor's degree
15-1121Computer Systems Analysts530,098540,34910,2512%20,741$37.62Bachelor's degree
15-1133Software Developers, Systems Software417,604429,34211,7383%16,318$46.69Bachelor's degree
15-1142Network and Computer Systems Administrators361,646369,9788,3322%14,769$34.29Bachelor's degree
15-1131Computer Programmers350,518353,8353,3171%11,999$34.48Bachelor's degree
15-1179Information Security Analysts, Web Developers, and Computer Network Architects315,290321,5436,2532%11,296$35.99Bachelor's degree
11-3021Computer and Information Systems Managers321,201326,3835,1822%10,228$56.67Bachelor's or higher degree, plus work experience
15-1799Computer Occupations, All Other195,774197,7301,9561%5,937$38.13Bachelor's degree
15-1141Database Administrators118,529122,0513,5223%5,593$36.44Bachelor's degree
15-1111Computer and Information Research Scientists30,12230,8427202%1,320$47.59Doctoral degree
Total3,883,7993,959,84576,0462%147,156$37.88
Source: QCEW Employees, Non-QCEW Employees & Self-Employed - EMSI 2013.1 Class of Worker

While demand for IT workers is on the rise, so too are the number of graduates in fields supplying these workers. They’ve jumped 19% since 2008:

Much of the data for this post comes from Analyst, EMSI’s web-based labor market data and analysis tool. For more information, contact Josh Wright ([email protected])Follow us on Twitter @DesktopEcon.

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