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WTF: Report Pegs IT Worker Confidence at an All-Time High? !#@

It’s not often that I get the chance to plug another fellow IT Knowledge Exchange blogger’s post in one of my own blogs, but today sure is that day. Thanks to the news stream from my colleagues over at the Internet Press Guild I picked up a pointer to Robin “Roblimo” Miller’s coverage of a PDF report from Randstad Technologies entitled “IT Worker Confidence Reaches Highest Level on Record.” My reaction to this claim was apparently the same as Rob’s because I instantly questioned the credibility, the survey base, and the very sanity of the organization behind such an outrageous claim.

But no, here’s a list of the companies behind this report: Harris Interactive, a well-known and -respected online survey firm; Randstad Technologies, a huge global human services and resources firm; and TechniSource, Randstad’s IT recruiting and placement subsidiary. About the only thing I can see that might be a little wonky is the survey population, which consisted of 4,341 adults from the USA, of which 253 “are employed in the technology industry.” I’m not really sure what “technology industry” means in this context, and at 5.8% of the total, that segment of 253 workers represents a somewhat different component than information workers vis-a-vis the civilian workforce as represented in Table A-14 of the latest USBLS Employment Situation Summary dated April 6, 2012 (that ratio is 3.7% instead, which has IT pros a bit over-represented in the overall sample, by my reckoning).

Even so, all reservations aside, the contents of this summary are mind-boggling at first blush:

  • Technology professionals’ confidence in the overall economy stands at 40 percent “now believing the economy is getting stronger” — this is up by 18 percent since their Q4 2011 report.
  • About one third (32%) of IT workers believe that more IT jobs are now available, up by 14 percent over the same period.
  • Forty-two percent of IT workers expressed confidence in their ability to find a new job, unchanged from the prior report.
  • Forty-one percent of IT workers say they’re likely to seek new work within the next twelve months, up nine percent from the prior report.

What does closer examination of this data tell me? First and foremost, it says that only the 253 IT professionals who made up around 1 in 20 of survey participants were able to express opinions reflected in this survey. This is still a respectable sample size, but not as good as a population of over 4,000. Randstad and Technisource see these responses as more reflective of a bullish economy, and advise employers to redouble their employee retention efforts, while trying to meet needs for “specialized skills as the job market heats up.”

What I see is less than a majority feeling somewhat better about the employment situation and their prospects for new work, and a lukewarm endorsement of the pace and substance behind the current economic recovery. Now that I’ve looked more closely at the data and the sample, my response is “I think they mean all-time high since the market downturn in 2008, don’t they?” or perhaps “Wake me up when the percentage levels reflect a clear majority for all the various metrics presented.”

But I have to say that pegging IT worker confidence at “an all-time high” reflects too narrow a time horizon, and too ebullient an interpretation of the data collected from the survey. This report might be good for Randstad’s core business, but I don’t think it necessarily reflects a bullish IT employment market in general, nor does it foretell brilliant prospects for IT job seekers or hoppers.

See Robin Miller’s blog over at Climbing teh IT Career Ladder for some follow-up questions he posed to Chris Mader, a Managing Director at Randstad Technologies. There, you’ll find some other interesting prognostications and outlooks on IT employment. I see Mader’s reasoning, but I’m not sure I buy those forecasts, either. But hey: I hope he’s right! If so, things are looking up a great deal more for IT than other recent reports and trends have suggested. Keep your fingers crossed…

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