Multiplying IT Managers

Date:   Monday , January 30, 2006

More managers and engineers and fewer programmers are reflected in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ year-end employment survey. Managers now make up 10 percent of the U.S. IT workforce, up from less than 7 percent in 2000, and manager jobs outnumber those in categories such as IT support specialist and network or data-communications administrator.

Another big finding: The U.S. had a respectable IT job growth, breaking four years of meager growth or declines. IT unemployment dropped to 2.9 percent last year, with 3.5 million IT people finding jobs. That’s back to the high of 2001, before companies slashed hundreds of thousands of IT jobs.

IT once again is looking like a healthy profession in the U.S. The 2.9 percent unemployment rate, down from 4.3 percent in 2004, is more than 2 percentage points lower than the overall workforce’s 5.1 percent. The IT labor pool grew 2 percent from last year, to 3.6 million, just shy of its 2001 high.

From 2000 through 2005, the number of IT managers in the U.S. grew by 123,000 jobs to 351,000, the only category that rose every year. Remove managers from the picture, and IT employment fell by 79,000 in five years. The bulk of the lost jobs are computer programmers and analysts, whose ranks thinned by a stunning 254,000, mostly because of increased use of packaged applications, offshore outsourcing, and the end of year 2000 remediation. The U.S. did add about 17,000 programming jobs last year, a 3 percent increase, the first time since 2000 that the category didn’t fall. The annual statistics are based on 12-month averages of Bureau of Labor Statistics surveys.

Outsourcing is a big reason management ranks have risen. The more you outsource, the more management you need. If you send work offshore, you are obligated to provide a lot more definition of what it is you want.

Business-process outsourcing of functions such as human resources and accounting may actually increase IT-management payrolls, since some companies assign an IT manager to help administer these types of outsourced services.

Plus, these days teams as small as three IT employees can have a project manager, often coordinating with outside contractors and colleagues in other departments, as IT becomes more embedded in processes throughout a business.

The largest IT employment category is the software engineer, which accounts for 24 percent of the IT workforce, followed by systems analyst (22 percent) and programmer (17 percent), then managers. In 2000, analysts made up a quarter of the workforce and programmers 21 percent. The fastest-growing field has been database administrators, growing 35 percent the past four years, but it employs just 3 percent of the workforce. And it saw a slight dip in employment last year.