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IT companies are experiencing staffing shortfalls while requiring
more effort by the employees they currently have on staff, according to
a survey from non-profit IT trade organization CompTIA. The quarterly
survey revealed 54 percent of IT firms say they’re understaffed by 5
percent or more, and another 22 percent of firms are fully staffed, but
would like to hire more workers to expand their business.

This development has added to an overall gloomy outlook on the
strength of the U.S. economic recovery. The overall CompTIA IT Industry
Business Confidence Index for the fourth quarter of 2011 fell by one
point to 51.9 on a 100-point scale–the third consecutive quarterly
decline in the confidence index this year. The index is compromised of
three metrics: opinions of the U.S. economy, opinions of the IT
industry and opinions of survey respondents’ own companies. A total of
427 IT companies participated in the survey.

However, the survey found that relative to the rating for the
overall economy, executives are far more confident in the IT industry
and their own firms, and looking ahead, the IT industry executives
predict a 1.9 gain in the Index in the first quarter of 2012. “That’s
little solace, given the widening gap of sentiments regarding the
economy,” said CompTIA vice president of research Tim Herbert. “No
industry operates in a vacuum, so even the relatively strong IT
industry has felt the pain of global economic weakness.”

Nearly one-third of companies (32 percent) say they’ve postponed or
canceled projects due to staffing shortages, according to the survey.
The data also suggest that staffing shortfalls are most prevalent among
larger companies ($100 million or more in annual revenue). Small firms
– those with less than $1 million in annual revenue – are most likely
to report being fully staffed at their desired levels. However, the
report noted that smaller firms tend to operate with leaner staff as
compared to larger firms.

Among the types of staff IT firms plan to hire or would like to
hire, 56 percent of surveyed firms said programmers and application
developers, 43 percent, help desk and support personnel, 41 percent,
project managers and 40 percent, sales staff. Even when companies
decide to act on filling their staffing needs, they said they struggle
to find qualified candidates despite the large pool of unemployed
workers. In the survey, 74 percent of IT firms said it’s somewhat or
very challenging finding quality candidates with the right skills and
experience when openings must be filled.

General small business optimism gained 0.8 points in September,
according to the National Federation of Independent Business’ latest
index, ending a six-month decline. However, the NFIB’s chief economist
cautioned that in spite of this uptick, there is little among the 10
index components that can be considered "positive." Reports of owners
expecting real sales to improve were higher than the previous month,
but were still negative. Similarly, owners expecting better business
conditions in six months increased modestly, but this reading also
remained negative.