Businesses Struggle With Hiring as Confidence Falls: CompTIA

By Nathan Eddy

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.

This article was originally published on 2011-10-12