Midwest Leads Nation in Expected Employment Gains, Survey Shows

Aug 26, 2004

MENLO PARK, CA -- Chief information officers (CIOs) continue to take a measured approach to hiring, according to the Robert Half Technology Information Technology Hiring Index and Skills Report. Nine percent of executives polled plan to expand their IT departments during the fourth quarter and 3 percent anticipate staff reductions. The net 6 percent hiring increase is up one percentage point from the third-quarter forecast and up one point from hiring projections made at this time last year.

The national poll includes responses from more than 1,400 CIOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 100 or more employees. It was conducted by an independent research firm and developed by Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis.

Key Findings

  • The net 6 percent hiring increase forecast for the fourth quarter of 2004 is up marginally from the previous and year-ago quarters.
  • For the second consecutive quarter, the West North Central region and the business services industry anticipate the most active IT hiring.
  • CIOs at the nation's largest companies are most optimistic about employment gains.
  • Business growth remains the leading factor driving the need for more IT personnel.

"Many companies are beginning to staff up again after cutting budgets deeply during the recession," said Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology. "However, firms are being cautious and selective, hiring only those IT professionals who are essential to their long-term needs and who meet all of their job requirements. Organizations also are bringing in technology talent on a project basis to help immediately address rising workloads and support new initiatives."

 Lee added, "To improve efficiency and remain competitive, businesses are re-initiating technology projects previously put on hold, including systems upgrades and conversions, as well as website and database development."

Thirty-seven percent of CIOs who plan to add staff in the fourth quarter said corporate growth or expansion is the leading reason. Increased customer and end-user support needs were cited by 17 percent of executives, followed by systems upgrades, with 16 percent of the response. Forty percent of those hiring said they will be concentrating their efforts on staff-level positions.

IT hiring activity will be driven primarily by the nation's largest employers, according to the survey. CIOs at businesses with 1,000 or more employees forecast a net 12 percent hiring increase in the fourth quarter, and executives at firms with 500-999 employees project a net 9 percent hiring increase. Lee noted, "Larger companies often have the financial resources to proactively add staff in preparation for an economic rebound." (Full survey results, including additional charts, are available at

Skills in Demand

When asked which technical skill sets were in shortest supply in their IT departments, 80 percent of CIOs reported a need for Microsoft Windows (NT/2000/XP) administration. Cisco network administration and Checkpoint firewall administration were the second most popular skill sets, each with 51 percent of the response. SQL Server management was cited by 48 percent of executives. (Note: Survey respondents were allowed multiple answers.)

CIOs were also asked which specialties were experiencing the most growth within their IT departments. Networking was the leading choice, cited by 19 percent of executives. Information security and applications development each received 12 percent of the response.

Regional Outlook

The West North Central states -- which led the nation in hiring optimism last quarter -- once again anticipate strong employment gains. Ten percent of technology executives plan to add staff during the fourth quarter and just 1 percent forecast personnel reductions. The net 9 percent increase is three percentage points above the national average.

"Many companies in the region are focusing on website and database upgrades and enhancements, which is fueling demand for developers with VB.NET (Visual Basic.NET) and C# (C-Sharp) skills," Lee said. "Firms also are actively recruiting networking and technical support professionals to manage systems upgrades and provide ongoing support."

The South Atlantic and Pacific regions also expect IT hiring activity to exceed the national average during the last three months of the year. CIOs in the South Atlantic states project a net 8 percent hiring increase, while technology executives in the Pacific region forecast a net 7 percent.

Industries Hiring

For the second consecutive quarter, the business services sector leads all industries in anticipated employment growth. Nineteen percent of CIOs in this industry plan to expand their IT departments and 7 percent expect staff cutbacks during the fourth quarter. The net 12 percent hiring increase is six percentage points above the national average.

CIOs in the finance, insurance and real estate sector also anticipate notable employment growth, with a net 9 percent hiring increase forecast. Technology executives in the professional services industry project a net 8 percent hiring increase.

National Hiring Projections

IT Hiring Projections by Region

IT Hiring Projections by Industry

IT Hiring Projections by Company Size

Skills in Demand

IT Job Categories Experiencing Growth

With more than 100 locations in North America and Europe, Robert Half Technology is a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis, for initiatives ranging from web development and multiplatform systems integration to network engineering and technical support. For more information about Robert Half Technology or to learn about online job search opportunities, please visit

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