Squaring IT Opportunities with Government Jobs Reports

The May jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics darkened a lot of spirits over the state of the economy. As if the weakest monthly job growth figure in a year wasn’t enough, the result was a surprise to most economists. Companies had cut back on hiring, the economic situation in Europe cast a pall over the U.S., and the Chinese economy has slowed. So all this is bad news if you’re in IT, right?

After all, what good is going through an advanced IT degree program if there won’t be jobs? Well, it’s time to stop for a moment and get a grip, because what is reported may not correspond at all to what you would experience. As economy watchers like Adam Davidson point out, one sudden change in jobs numbers means little. The difference between the 69,000 jobs created in May and the 150,000 that economists had expected was 49,000.

When compared to the size of the U.S. labor force, that is a drop in the bucket representing “only a few hundredths of a percent of the U.S. work force.” In addition, the monthly jobs report is not an absolute and exact number, but an estimate based on polling. The margin of error in the study is about 100,000 jobs, which means that the number could actually have been as low as a loss of 31,000 jobs or as high as a 169,000 gain.

Experts agree that it is a single point of information useful in a long-range view of the economy, not something to make you give up hope between May and June. Furthermore, IT analysts different sharply over where they think industry jobs are headed. The TechServe Alliance estimated that May saw an additional 15,500 jobs created, which would mean a new IT employment high of just under 4.2 million IT jobs in the U.S. Foote Partners, which consults on IT employment, estimated a new gain of 5,200 IT jobs in May over four job segments.

Another consultancy, Janco Associates, said May saw 200 new IT jobs. Confusing? Learn to live with it. Each organization uses different data and methodologies when making their counts. Even the Bureau of Labor Statistics isn’t clear about which positions to include when calculating IT employment. In other words, no one knows for certain what is happening in the overall job market, nor in the specific case of IT employment.

Conditions will always come and go. All you can do is make yourself as competitive as possible. That could mean learning some new technologies an advanced degree like a masters in information systems. If you hone your skills and learn to more effectively communicate the value you can offer a company, it doesn’t matter what the economy is doing overall. You’ll improve your chances of getting a new position be being exactly what a hiring manager is looking for.

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