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While the recent Department of Labor report showed that IT employment may have turned the corner recently, that doesn’t mean there will be a big job recovery in IT in 2010.

Expect IT hiring to remain sluggish through most of 2010, only picking up at the end of the year and maybe not even until 2011, according to IT employment trends analysis firm Foote Partners.

Foote Partners recently released its predictions for 2010, and among them is this lackluster IT hiring forecast.

“Expect the length of the tail on this staffing lag to be much longer than previous economic recoveries,” the firm says in its report. “Volatility will continue to punctuate staffing and pay levels throughout 2010, with human capital investments focused on specific skill specializations as employers struggle to recalibrate their IT workforces by striking the right balance between costs, agility and intense competitive market pressures.”

Rather, the firm says, employers will continue their focus on acquiring the right skills – whether it’s through providing training to existing employees, hiring new ones, or going outside to consultants or outsourcing firms — rather than jobs and hiring.
“Workforce reshuffling in response to business decisions used to take months; now it’s happening in weeks and even days,” the firm says. “This is responsible for the extreme volatility in skills pay and demand evidenced in Foote Partners’ 2009 compensation trend surveys beginning in July 2009.”

The downside to the approach is that once a recovery arrives, it’s often harder to regain the skill and experience that was sacrificed during the down times.

Foote Partners says that the IT services employment sector will be the first to recover, but the recovery will be different for small vendors versus large vendors. The firm says IT contractors, consultants and managed services providers with the right skills will be in hot demand next year, as will SMB consulting firms in segments such as security.  On the other hand, large systems integrators and services firms will see a slower growth in headcount.

Foote Partners also points to the momentum behind the move to managed IT services as a trend that will affect IT employment going forward. The jobs and services most affected include: networking and telecom; PC and desktop services, selected applications, security and SMB companies.