Cisco is cutting 4,000 jobs; information technology job openings fell in North Carolina in July and are expected to decline over the rest of the year. The N.C. Biotechnology Center is making some cuts due to a budget slash even as life science job openings are increasing. Meanwhile, a new Raleigh startup is focusing on helping people find work.

Despite all the hype about new jobs and companies coming to the Triangle, our unemployment rate remains well above 7 percent and statewide it’s a seasonally adjusted 8.9 percent, according to data from East Carolina University.

A ball of confusion and conflicting information, eh? (Check out a variety of reports linked with this column for more details about all the mixed signals.)

If you have a job, just be glad you aren’t trying to find one in this mess.

A new report from Robert Half Technology highlights the confusing picture. Focused on the Raleigh market, the recruitment and job services firm published data that shows more chief information officers are planning to hire, fewer plan to make layoffs or freeze hiring – but most only plan to fill existing openings.

Here are some of the numbers:

  • 15 percent of CIOs plan to add staff in the fourth quarter compared to 14 percent last quarter and 10 percent in the second quarter
  • 65 percent of CIOs plan to fill only open IT spots compared to 54 percent last quarter and 69 percent in the second quarter
  • 16 percent of CIOs plan to put IT hiring plans on hold, down from 27 percent the previous quarter and 17 percent in the second quarter
  • 3 percent of CIOs plan to make layoffs, down from 5 percent in the third quarter but up slightly from 2 percent in the second quarter

Inside the Trends

In terms of needed skills, 52 percent of the CIOs said they need database management workers. Next most in demand were network administration (50 percent) and desktop support (49 percent).

In a Q&A, The Skinny talked with Chris McCrea, the regional vice president for Raleigh, about the conflicting information and what advice he would offer job seekers – especially in terms of retraining in order to seek jobs where demand is most keen.

  • I understand micro data for the Raleigh market dates back to second quarter of this year, but does it not appear that there is at least an upward trend in hiring plans?

While the results are up from last quarter, no general assumptions about the health of the U.S. economy or IT hiring should be made from just a snapshot of a single quarter. Our data does shows that local companies plan to add more staff to their IT departments in the upcoming quarter.

  • There do appear to be fewer layoff plans and CIOs seem to be more excited – so should job seekers/ switchers be encouraged?

This number of companies planning for layoffs is down from last quarter. There are a number of reasons IT could be cutting back – they may have hired too many people early in the year, or their business could be slowing down after a particularly busy time.

  • It seems strange that while fewer CIOs are putting hiring plans on hold, more CIOs are planning only to hire for open slots. How do you explain that?

Many firms already have the number of IT personnel they require, and therefore only need to be concerned with replacing the team members who leave.

  • IT job trends reports from the NC Technology Association (monthly) are showing less hiring/jobs availability. So doesn’t the overall IT job market remain pretty difficult?

Our data shoes that 66 percent of Raleigh based CIOs said it is somewhat or very challenging to find skilled IT professionals. The jobs hiring managers are trying to fill may have few qualified applicants. Many hiring managers are also very selective and only interested in applicants who possess all the skills and attributes they are seeking. This can make it more challenging to fill a position.

  • In the report, Robert Half says competition remains “intense” for employees – that seems to be the case in narrow skillsets. Should people looking for work or to switch jobs perhaps think about going for needed skills or is the market demand too subject to fluctuation in order to justify additional training/accreditation/school?

Acquiring new skills is a really important step. If you are out of work, it may be an opportune time to brush up on your skills and certifications. If you are currently employed, it’s smart to volunteer for new initiatives that will help you stretch your skills.

  • If you were an IT worker looking for a job, what’s the best advice someone could give you?

Network. Make sure you are networking both in person and online. Use social and professional networking sites, as well as attending industry and community events to learn about potential job openings.

More Data Soon

The North Carolina Technology Association’s jobs report for August will likely be published sometime next week. Don’t expect the job trends data to provide any more clarity – except what specific skills are needed. Then job seekers will have to decide how they can “stretch” their skills.