Developers, business analysts, and support engineers find roles.

March 2009

Last year, Raleigh seemed to be enjoying an influx of new jobs. In January 2008, Fidelity Investments had committed to adding 2,000 positions to the 1,000 it already had in Research Triangle. Meanwhile, Optimal Technologies US, a software and technology provider for electrical utilities and consumers, planned to move its headquarters from Canada to Raleigh, creating 325 jobs, including positions for highly specialized circuit designers, software programmers, engineers, managers and marketing professionals.

How a year can change things. In February 2009, Dice listed only 415 jobs in the Raleigh metro area, compared to 897 in February 2008.

Deb Hill, managing director at Manpower Professional for IT and engineering in Raleigh, describes the current IT employment climate there as so-so. "The picture," she says, "changed quite rapidly and dramatically during the fourth quarter of 2008, with major local layoffs at technology-rich companies. Since that time, the activity within our practice seems to have picked up a bit, but not enough to characterize the climate as strong."

Hills says the impact of the financial meltdown on IT workers will be felt much more heavily in the Charlotte area because of the presence of Bank of America and Wachovia (now Wells Fargo). Still, there are skills in demand, most notably for Java developers, PeopleSoft ERP consultants, developers, administrators, SAP and SAS analysts, and test engineers.

Are more of her clients requesting contract workers instead of full-time employees? "Not necessarily," says Hill. "For those skill sets that are still in demand, companies are willing to offer a full time role. We recently closed an EDI programmer direct hire, and are close on a network manager, as well. Some of the small-to-medium-sized companies we are working with are still fairly optimistic about full-time hiring plans for 2009."

Debra Reed, branch manager for Sapphire Technologies in Durham, sees significantly more requests for contract hires versus permanent roles. On top of that, job order requests are significantly lower than they were at this time last year. "However, we are receiving requests for proposals for future business," she notes. "Many of our clients say they don't expect any strong hiring initiatives until possibly third quarter."

Financial clients are just not hiring at the moment, Reeds explains. While most are keeping the staff they currently have, "one major financial client has actually done some layoffs of both permanent and contract staff. They expect to have a few contract openings later on in the year," Reed says.

Currently, the majority of jobs she is recruiting for includes developers, business analysts, and support engineers. "Six months ago, these same skill sets were in demand along with project managers," Reed notes. "We now have a surplus of project managers looking for new jobs."

Gary Henning, regional vice president at Robert Half Technology's Durham office, says his clients have slowed their hiring processes. Now, they set up three to four interviews, involving more people in the process. Since their focus is on cost-savings, help desk workers are in need, though most of those hires are as contractors. Other jobs companies are trying to fill are in .NET, virtualization, Web 2.0, PHP and Ruby on Rails.

Meanwhile, contract hires are facing a reduction in hourly rates: "A lot of companies are cutting costs," says Henning. "So they will do everything in their power to reduce the rate."