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Headlines over the past few days trumpeted the news that the number of people receiving unemployment benefits has hit a four-year low.

The number of displaced workers receiving benefits averaged 2.58 million during the four-week period ending the week of August 15—the lowest average since March 2001, according to Department of Labor numbers.

Is this sign of economic strength translating into information technology jobs?

Some industry watchers think so. They indicated that executive-level personnel and tech professionals skilled in particular niches have fared better than most.

ExecuNet, a recruiting network for executives and recruiters, reported last week that the executive search industry experienced a 15 percent increase in the number of search assignments during the first six months of 2005.

The recruiters that ExecuNet surveyed said they expected a 17 percent increase in assignments during the second half of the year.

ExecuNet ranked the high-tech sector fourth in its list of industries expected to generate the greatest growth in executive-level jobs. The sector ranked fifth in the organization’s January 2005 ranking.

Click here to learn secrets to hiring technical talent.

Yoh Services LLC, a temporary and direct placement firm based in Philadelphia, has also noted improvement in information technology employment.

“In the IT space, things have been tight for the past couple of years,” according to Charlie Jones, vice president of Yoh’s Dallas office.

“What you are seeing right now is that companies are getting some dollars allocated to projects and as a result of those dollars we are seeing a pretty significant increase in overall hiring in the IT space.”

ERP (enterprise resource planning) projects are representative of the work that corporations have moved to the forefront, Jones said.

Indeed, industry executives report that ERP has made a gradual rebound since hitting a low point in 2001. Thus, high-end skills in the ERP space land at the top of many companies’ most-wanted lists.

SAP and Oracle/Peoplesoft practitioners are in demand, but so too are open source specialists. Jones cited ERP5 and Open for Business as platforms for which companies are seeking experts.

To read about the massive job cuts at HP, click here.

Jones said only a limited number of individuals have that kind of expertise and demand is increasing faster than the supply. As a consequence, hourly rates for consultants and salaries for direct employees are also on the rise, he added.

Jones noted that the time between temporary contracts is shrinking, which provides further evidence of a stronger jobs outlook.

A while back, consultants may have had three or four weeks between assignments, but now they may be looking at a week or less, according to Jones.

The rising tech tide isn’t lifting every tech professional, however. Jones pointed to applications developers in technologies such as Java and Visual Basic, observing that “demand is probably not as great as the supply” and hence the “salaries are stagnant at best.”

In contrast, system architects and designers are in greater demand, Jones said. Security talent also falls into the in-demand category, he observed.

Jones cautioned that the current staffing situation, although the strongest in recent years, is no revival of the dot-com hiring frenzy.

But today’s tech employment market, he said, offers opportunities for those who pick their spots.