The information technology sector added 1,200 data-related jobs in January, more than four times the average monthly gain for all of 2016.

That is one of the latest findings of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in its monthly U.S. Employment Report. Following the release of the BLS report each month, the results are always analyzed by Foote Partners, LLC, a staffing and compensation research group in Florida. Foote Partners found both good news and bad news in the latest report.

“An analysis of U.S. employment numbers by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals a net increase of 7,000 information technology jobs in January 2017 across four industry job segments commonly associated with technology professionals,” according to David Foote, chief research officer and founder of the firm.

Those four job segments are:

  • Management/technical consulting services
  • Computer systems design/related services
  • Telecommunications
  • Data processing/hosting/related services

Leading in job growth was computer systems design/related services, which saw 12,500 new jobs added to payrolls in January, Foote said. He stressed that this was the single largest gain in this job segment since Foote Partners began analyzing BLS data in 2009.

Data processing/hosting/related services also had a healthy January, posting 1,200 new jobs. That segment had been adding an average of 233 per jobs per month on average in 2016.

Commenting on this segment, Foote noted that employers need to scale to stay competitive.

“When they dig their heels into a solution that works, be it in cloud, security, big data, mobile, or digital technology, they tend to add headcount because they know these people will be making contributions for a long time to come,” Foote said.

“That may be conservative management behavior but it’s also very smart,” Foote continued. “Ideally each new hire must have a measurable impact on the business: they can’t just be a cost item for them. What will drive new job creation in 2017 will be hiring in niche areas such as big data and analytics, information/cyber security, cloud computing, and certain areas of applications development and software engineering like DevOps and digital product development.”

The other services segment, management and technical consulting services, posted a net loss of 200 jobs in January for its worst monthly performance since June 2015. Foote said this was unexpected given the average monthly gains of nearly 7,400 jobs in this segment for calendar 2016 and only 5,400 jobs in November and 4,100 jobs in December.

“Together, these tech services job segments added 12,300 jobs last month, which is only slightly below the average monthly growth of 12,850 jobs in all of 2016 for these segments,” Foote remarked.

The final job segment continued its uneven performance in January. Some 3,800 jobs were lost in the telecommunications job segment, consistent with similar losses posted in each of the prior six months but greater than the 2,533 average of jobs lost per month in the same period.

The Data Processing, Hosting and Related Services segment added a net 1,200 jobs in January compared to an average net gain of only 233 jobs per month in calendar 2016 for this segment.

“What stands out for me is the sudden reversal of what has been very robust job segment for a very long time -- management and technical consulting services,” Foote explained. “After eighteen consecutive quarters of job growth averaging 6,400 new jobs per month, the last three months of 2016 saw on 4,600 new jobs per month followed by a net loss of 200 in January. This has been one of the strongest segments for new tech job growth for many years. Is this now a trend for 2017?”

“The truth is that employers are still being cautious about adding overhead to their budgets and that’s exactly the disadvantage of full-time hires over consultants and contingent workers,” says Foote. “They cannot afford to make staffing bets on technology-enabled solutions they are experimenting with. They need to build flexibility and agility into their product and service development in case strategic and tactical directions change.”

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