PERMANENT staff placements increased for the sixth month running during January, with demand for staff now growing at its strongest rate since July 2007, according to the monthly Report on Jobs, published by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and KPMG.
The report shows that although the economy is still fragile, employers are hiring more now than at any time in the last year.
However, some sectors are faring far better than others. The demand for permanent staff in hotel and catering and blue-collar sectors, for example, increased only marginally.
In contrast there has been a real surge in IT and computing vacancies, and while recruitment is still not back to 2006 levels, it has recovered sharply.
"Investment in information and communications technology (ICT) is bouncing back -- big time -- and that is having an impact on recruitment," says Jeff Brooks, chair of the Technology Sector Group at the REC.
"Investment seemed to be frozen for about a year. For example, in 2008 demand for business analysts dropped by more than 50 per cent. What these recruitment figures tell us is that corporations are now investing in IT even in the depths of the recession.
"And there are sound reasons why businesses invest in ICT even in a downturn. For example, if your market has shrunk you need to find ways to have a bigger market share.
"If, by investing in better front-office systems and online sales, you can sell more then you are going to invest in this technology. That is why we have seen a sharp increase in demand for contract web designers. Businesses are also looking to improve back- office systems to reduce costs."
This view is supported by the latest forecasts for global IT spending -- which is predicted to rise eight per cent this year according to Forrester Research. Software and computer hardware will be the biggest areas of growth and Western Europe the strongest region, with a predicted 11 per cent rise in spending.
As IT and computing staff work across sectors, they also provide a good barometer of what is happening across the wider economy.
Finance and business services are having the strongest recovery in ICT jobs according to the REC figures, with recruitment up 11 per cent between the second and third quarters of last year. But manufacturing and construction are still suffering.
"We are now the busiest we have been for two years," adds Brooks, who also runs Prime Sourcing, a recruitment consultancy based in Victoria. "The largest increase we have seen is for business analysts who analyse what the process involves and how a new system will benefit the business.
"Then these new systems need to be developed and installed. So system developers and test analysts are then needed. Contract vacancies in this area have risen particularly sharply."
The ICT skills in greatest demand include SQL -- with 20,000 vacancies advertised in the third quarter of last year alone. …