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Canadian IT Job Market - Quarterly Update Jan 2008

Previously we had been producing a monthly look at the job market across Canada, which proved to be a lot of work every month for Eagle's General Managers plus very often there was not much different to report from month to month. This blog represents the first of our new quarterly updates on the IT job market across Canada ... as seen through our eyes here at Eagle.

Traditionally a very strong quarter, October to December did not see the spike of activity that has been common in past years. Although the need for IT resources still grew during Q4 2007 for the West, demand was much more moderate than expected. In Alberta, the impact of the Royalty Review and depressed natural gas prices have taken their toll on corporate IT spending, seeing some very large companies place projects on hold and curtail spending. The impact is expected to be felt well into 2008. In British Columbia, the year end "spend" did not come to fruition suggesting that budgets had been consumed over the busier-than-average summer months.

Demand for full-time employees grew substantially over the past three months and with many contractors having their contracts completed in December, the appetites for these positions appear to be increasing. This is particularly true in the Vancouver market, where contract to perm conversions were much more prevalent. In Calgary, however, entrepreneurial spirit remained strong as did people's confidence that the industry may only be taking a quick breath before diving into next year's business. It is expected that the demand for permanent employees will be robust for some time to come and it will be interesting to watch how businesses and government choose to compete for these resources.

With the business environment being a little slower than expected and many contractors completing contracts at the end of the calendar year, the supply and demand "gap" closed somewhat resulting in rate stability. Clients continued to search for "value" by trying to match rates to very specific skillsets and experience requirements. More hiring managers seem to be interested in relatively new certifications such as CBAP and are interested in BAs who are involved with the IIBA. Opportunities that include a significant travel component have also become more common.

Hot skills in the West include: BC - BAs, PMs, Java Developers and RPG; Edmonton - SAP, App Analysts, Program Analysts and Testers; Calgary - BAs, PMs, ITIL, Change Management; Winnipeg - BAs, Developers, SAP functional and technical.

In the GTA, the job market remained very HOT finishing off 2007 and flourishing into the New Year. In particular, there seems to be a consistent increase in the number of open full-time positions in early 2008 as the overall unemployment rate in Canada continues to remain very low. There is no shortage of organizations looking for competent employees.

The contract business continues to remain strong in all sectors. Demand for technical skills such as UNIX, Java/J2EE, Sybase, VB, and .NET... remain vibrant. However, while the need for contract resources is still present, there is a push in certain areas, where private sector organizations are trying to convert contractors into full-time employees. This trend seems to be increasing.

Financial Services sector organizations continue to look for ways to streamline their strategies, consolidate systems and centralize processes. The need for strong Business Analysts, Instructional Designers and Quality Assurance Analysts remains high. The competition in the Telecommunications industry is creating demand for business/technical savvy individuals with strong security and telecom backgrounds.

The public sector has increased its resourcing needs as the end of its fiscal year approaches. ITIL/ITSM specialists and Enterprise Architects are in high demand in this area. Overall, there continues to be an increased demand for senior-level functional resources in all industry sectors including the public and private sector for both contract and full-time resources. These requirements indicate many new projects are in their initial phases and we can expect to see more activity in the months ahead as these projects ramp up.

As the year came to a close, it became apparent in Eastern Canada that in spite of a raft of downright discouraging economic news stories and the predictions that are part and parcel of the New Year season, one thing remained consistent, organizations are, "desperate" for talent both keeping and developing their own in house and also in acquiring new talent going forward. Wages are clearly on the rise, the Canadian dollar effectively buys more and employers faced with the talent squeeze are highly cognizant and sensitive to providing a positive work environment for employees. The economic storm clouds that loom ominously on the horizon are largely south of the border and will undoubtedly affect our economy but it is generally agreed they will affect certain segments or industries of our economy more than others, specifically the Manufacturing sector of Ontario and others that rely heavily on exports. The double whammy of a record loonie in conjunction with high energy costs will be a challenging burden to overcome in the near term and the acute need for skills and resources needed for the next few years will likely not be enough to trump the debilitating economic challenges they face. The positive for those of us in the technology space is that the new and even greater focus on productivity gains employers will look to achieve, will see continued emphasis on technology spend rather than reliance on a cheap dollar that marshaled growth through the 90's.

Demand remained very high as the year came to a close as projects were either on the cusp of or received new or further funding. In addition, many organizations working on a fiscal calendar year were anxious to hit deliverables and milestones before the year closed. The trend towards full-time hire over contract or in addition to contract continued to gain steam and the momentum appears that it will continue in the New Year. Montreal saw an increase in contract opportunities and a significant increase in Full-time positions, especially on the infrastructure side and in web development.

The Federal government is clearly at a crossroads with a well publicized renewal or revitalization in the Public Service in full swing as the Feds announced an aggressive effort to attract new graduates while many are set to retire. In addition, there is ample evidence of a pent up demand for contract technology resources in the government as client department contract vehicles expire and everybody anxiously awaits the awarding of the long awaited TBIPS government-wide initiative and vehicle to acquire contract technology resources. Shortly before the holidays, the initial word went out that contracts will be awarded early in the New Year with the anticipation of them being fully usable shortly thereafter... all good things come to those who wait !

Hot skills in the region continue to be PMs, BAs, QA Testers, Data Conversion and Application Architects in addition to Change Management consultants.