With financial firms streamlining their business focus or being acquired by others, there’s less work to go around for the city’s numerous IT professionals.
The turmoil in the financial and insurance industries had a major impact on the city, where numerous financial companies have data centers. Firms such as American Express, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Countrywide Financial Corp. (purchased by Bank of America last year), all have IT facilities in Phoenix or its surrounding suburbs.
"There are so many financial institutions in town," says Didde. "The situation with American Express is a big loss. They have a really big data processing center in the north of the city and they have a big facility in Scottsdale, where a lot of data processing, quality assurance people and programmers worked. I know they have not been hiring for quite a while and they have let a lot of contractors go."
With so many of these firms streamlining their business focus or being acquired by others, there’s less work to go around for the city’s numerous IT professionals. Didde, who has worked in the IT industry for about 30 years, says these companies are now cutting back on big-scale projects that focused on emerging technologies. Instead, she says, they are offering IT work that is "regulatory in nature. They are merger, integration projects or they are independent projects that are needed to support mergers down the line."
It’s a situation that continues to be in flux: Bank of America recently announced it’s considering selling some of its business units since the Federal Reserve notified the company it needs $33.9 billion in capital to weather the recession.
On a broader level, the numbers for Phoenix show a slightly stronger picture compared to other U.S. cities. IT job postings on Dice tallied 766 in April, compared to 574 in March. The only other city showing a similar increase was Austin, which in April had 719 job postings, compared to 557 in March.
According to Robert Half Technology’s IT Hiring Index, 18 percent of the region’s CIOs planned to increase the number of IT personnel on staff during the second quarter of 2009, compared to 8 percent who plan to cut the number. The rest anticipate neither an increase or a decrease during the period.
Dan Fisk, director of technology services at Robert Half’s Arizona office, says he has seen demand for permanent placement decline, though some skills are still in demand. Application and Web development expertise seem to be the highest in demand, he says, while the need for project managers, business analysts and quality assurance testing positions has declined.
On the infrastructure side, there’s still some need for database managers and network engineers. Companies also are collapsing roles, meaning they’re merging several jobs into one. For instance, says Fisk, software developers are being asked to do quality assurance testing as well.
"There still is a strong need for software developers and desktop support," he says. "Anyone with software developer skills still is in high demand because companies are trying to automate processes with software development to enable ROI. But it’s all project work. It’s not like they are hiring full-time necessarily."
Fisk says the verticals experiencing growth are healthcare and education, which are the bright spots for 2009. "Basically, the word on the street is most of the layoffs are done. Companies are down to their core infrastructure and
can’t let anyone else go. That is why 74 percent of the CIOs we surveyed say they’re not doing anything."
Deborah House, managing director for staffing firm Technisource’s Arizona office, says the area is flooded with project managers, business analysts and application developers so the demand is slow. She believes companies still are cutting what they consider non-critical jobs. However, she concurs that healthcare continues to be a strong area for IT jobs. Project managers and business analysts who understand the healthcare industry’s business and technical needs are in a good position.
"This is where we are seeing a concentration of activity. Healthcare has been a real bright spot for us in Phoenix," says House. "But across the board, it has been slow. I tell people that flat is the new growth."