Dallas continued to be hit with layoff announcements as 2009 wound down in sectors including healthcare, telecommunications and IT consulting. In November, UniCare Life & Health Insurance said it would let go 187 workers in January, March and June, while Nortel said it would lay off 56 workers. Nokia Siemens announced plans to eliminate 100 employees as part of its goal to slice costs by more than $700 million by the end of 2011.
On Dice, job listings for Dallas showed a 19 percent year-over-year drop, with 1,475 positions listed in December 2009 compared to1, 828 in December 2008.
Despite such news, recruiters and technology professionals in the Big D believe the IT job market is stabilizing – and cite some anecdotal evidence it may even be improving. John Reed, district president at Robert Half Technology, says his clients are restarting IT projects they’d shelved last year. In the fourth quarter, his job orders were up between 10 and 15 percent from the previous period. "Companies are opening up a little bit in terms of business," says Reed. "There is relatively positive improvement."
The skill sets most in demand include infrastructure jobs such PC technician, networking and help desk support. On the software side, there’s demand for data center analysts and "anything related to Web development," says Reed. While he’s noted orders for project managers and business analysts, he observes there’s more demand for those professionals in other parts of the country. Verticals showing signs of life include financial services, energy and health care.
Walker Fenci, a managing director with Technisource’s Dallas office, says his firm has 130 orders for job contracts in the IT sector for skill sets that include project managers, business analysts, Java and .NET developers. "There are a mix of projects," says Fenci, "some were put off last year and some are new."
Fenci also is a seeing a demand helpdesk (level 1 and 2) and desktop support specialists, and the verticals that are showing the need are healthcare, financial services and mortgage and banking. The skill sets that have a slow demand include quality professionals and Fenci has not seen much demand for large-scale Oracle or SAP ERP implementations.
Overall, recruiters say companies continue to seek contractors rather than full-time employees. And some IT workers are managing well with this kind of work. Jay Walker, for example, has a boutique IT consulting practice and is three months into a long-term consulting gig. He sees a pick up in activity in the area’s IT labor market. "I get a number of calls from recruiters and other industry connections, and that’s picked up significantly in January," says Walker, who has experience in project management, architecture and coding.
In addition, Walker says a number of software developers in Dallas are writing applications for social networking sites like Facebook and for the iPhone’s mobile platform.
Beth Carden-Hyman, executive director of staffing firm Sentari Technologies, is seeing some demand for Oracle, Java and .NET specialists. "We actually are expecting a 30 percent growth in business in January 2010 compared to January 2009," Carden-Hyman says. "We are seeing more clients that want technical and business analyst expertise."
Steve Young, a senior recruiter in Manpower Professional’s local office, reports seeing "pockets of activity," including demand for helpdesk professionals, project managers, business analysts and some database administrators. During the last month, he’s only seen one job order for .NET.
Young, too, says firms seek mostly contractors. The verticals showing signs of activity include financial services; software developers are needed for back-end processing in the mortgage sector. "Overall, there’s some degree of activity, but it’s still slow," he says.
— By Sonia R. Lelii