Strongest Employment Growth Expected in West North Central Region

May 25, 2004

MENLO PARK, CA -- Chief information officers (CIOs) interviewed recently for the Robert Half Technology Information Technology Hiring Index and Skills Report were cautious about their third-quarter hiring intentions.  Eight percent of executives expect to add IT staff and 3 percent plan personnel cutbacks.  The net 5 percent hiring increase compares with a net 9 percent increase forecast last quarter, when results hit their highest level in nearly two years.  The majority of executives, 88 percent, plan to maintain existing staff levels.

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

  • Business expansion continues to be the leading factor driving IT hiring, cited by 51 percent of executives.  This marks the third consecutive quarter of growth in this category.
  • Microsoft Windows administration remains the skill set most in demand by CIOs.
  • Technology executives at the largest companies are most optimistic about IT hiring plans.
  • The strongest employment growth is forecast in the West North Central and Mid-Atlantic regions

"Businesses that overstaffed and experienced layoffs during the recession are taking a more strategic and measured approach to hiring today," said Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology.  "Many managers are initiating projects previously on hold due to budget constraints.  However, they are carefully analyzing their requirements before adding full-time IT employees and relying on project professionals for short-term demands."

Lee added that candidates who possess a combination of advanced technical expertise, "soft" skills, industry experience and business acumen are beginning to receive multiple offers, prompting firms to expedite the hiring process in some cases.

Fifty-one percent of CIOs planning to add staff in the third quarter cited business growth as the primary motivator.  This compares to 46 percent of respondents who said business expansion was the leading reason for adding staff in the second quarter and 37 percent who gave this response in the first-quarter survey.  Systems upgrades and a need for increased customer and end-user support followed, each receiving 13 percent of the response. 

Technology executives at companies with more than 1,000 employees foresee the strongest employment gains during the third quarter.  Eighteen percent of CIOs at these firms plan to expand their IT departments and 3 percent plan reductions, for a net 15 percent hiring increase.  (Full survey results, including additional charts, are available at

Skills in Demand

When asked which technical skill sets were needed most within their IT departments, 84 percent of CIOs reported demand for expertise in Microsoft Windows (NT/2000/XP) administration.  Visual Basic development was also cited as a hot specialty, receiving 46 percent of the response.  Check Point firewall administration ranked third, cited by 41 percent of CIOs.  (Note: Survey respondents were allowed multiple answers.)

Executives surveyed were also asked to identify the most sought-after specialties within their IT departments.  Networking was the leading response at 25 percent.  "Businesses are investing heavily in network security and need skilled IT professionals to assess system vulnerabilities and develop strategies for overcoming them," said Lee.  "In addition, networking staff are helping organizations improve efficiency by upgrading aging hardware and software."  Fourteen percent of technology executives cited a need for applications development professionals.

Regional Outlook

The West North Central1 states anticipate the strongest technology hiring activity in the third quarter.  Twelve percent of CIOs plan to expand their IT departments and none expect personnel reductions.  The net 12 percent increase is up four percentage points from the region's second-quarter forecast. 

"Many companies in the West North Central states are adopting a .NET platform as part of broader initiatives to replace outdated technologies," Lee said.  "This is fueling demand in the region for C## (C-Sharp) and VB.NET development skills."

CIOs in the Mid-Atlantic2 states also expect notable employment gains in the third quarter.  Twelve percent of technology executives in this region plan to add IT staff and 4 percent expect personnel reductions, for a net 8 percent hiring increase.

Industries Hiring

Technology executives in the business services sector are most optimistic about IT hiring activity in the third quarter.  Fifteen percent of CIOs in this industry plan to add employees and 2 percent anticipate staff cutbacks.  The net 13 percent hiring increase is eight percentage points above the national average.

The wholesale and finance, insurance and real estate industries also expect employment gains to exceed the national average.  CIOs in both industry sectors forecast a net 8 percent hiring increase in the third quarter.

National Hiring Projections

IT Hiring Projections by Region

IT Hiring Projections by Industry

Factors Driving Hiring

IT Hiring Projections by Company Size

Skills in Demand

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

1 Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota
2 New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania

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