Recruiters See Hints – Hints, Mind You – Of Movement in New York

As the city’s economy continues to struggle, some recruiters are luring IT talent from New York to other metro areas. Still, a number see hints of hiring beginning to appear – at least for contract positions.

June 2009

The economic downturn has pushed some New Yorkers to do what in years past they¿d never have considered: relocate.

New York Skyline

Tim Valdner, senior technology recruiter for Analytic Recruiting, says his company has managed to weather the downturn by recruiting local talent for firms in Chicago, Boston and California. "There wasn’t enough work in New York City," Valdner says. "Chicago, in particular, wants New York City talent and they asked us to find them. And we did."

Sometime in March and April, the pace of job cuts slowed in the area, recruiters say. Now, some recruiters who focus on New York City have noted a slight improvement in the IT job market. Valdner’s among them. "There’s been a change," he says. " The biggest banks, largest investment firms have started to recruit. They have some job openings – not a lot, but some."

Valdner says demand for IT skill sets is broad and include job openings for Java and C++ developers. Most important, those who have technical expertise coupled with a strong business sense have a greater edge over IT workers with no business background. In particular, he sees demand for IT workers who understand fixed-income backed equities and structured products.

"Right now, there still are not enough jobs for those who are in non-finance,¿ says Valdner. "When that will change, I don’t know."

New York City Job PostingsIn May, Dice job postings for New York City dropped by 45 percent from the previous year. According to the New York State Department of Labor, the state’s unemployment rate stood at 8.2 percent in May, while the city’s was at 9 percent. Since its private sector job count peaked in August 2008, New York has lost 212,200 private sector jobs, erasing more than half of the 400,000 jobs added during the expansion from 2003 to 2008.

Christa Baker, area manager for Manpower Professional, describes the city’s IT job market as slow. "However, we are starting to see some movement in critical projects," she says. "We have a couple of customers, large financial customers who have some critical projects they are starting to move on."
That’s an improvement even from April, when many of her clients continued to put projects on hold. But just in the past few weeks, she’s seen a break in the trend. She’s hearing a need for a SQL server database specialist and software engineer. One pharmaceutical client is looking to hire a project manager. "They are pulling the trigger on critical projects," Baker says.

When does she expect the market to really pick up? "There’s no way to tell. We’ve never been in this kind of economy. It’s really tricky."

Paul Flaharty, regional manager of Robert Half Technology’s New York City office, agrees the job market seems to have improved slightly in the last month. "We’re not losing ground anymore," he says. "We are finally seeing a couple of big projects in the legal, healthcare and education spaces." He’s seeing demand for positions that include help desk professionals, application support and migration specialists. In all cases, the jobs are contract work. However, the scope of the contracts seems to be expanding, with companies looking to sign on workers for six months rather than just three months.

Wall Street also is experiencing some signs of hope: "We are seeing a slight increase in full-time hires, although it is pretty tight," Flaharty says. "It seems as if financial services is taking it more on a quarter-by-quarter basis compared to healthcare, education and legal verticals."

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