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Canadian IT Job Market - Quarterly Outlook July 2008

Global warming has been blamed for changing weather patterns... but can it be blamed for changing business patterns as well?! Something has made a consistent impact on corporate IT project planning patterns in Western Canada. Typically within the first quarter of a new year, there is a big push to get new projects out of the gate; this year Q1 was relatively quiet on that front. In the last 3 months, however, demand for PMs, BAs and Architects shot up as organizations began new projects and this trend is continuing into the early part of Q3 as well. As requirements for Designers, Developers, QA professionals and Testers typically follow, this suggests a busy summer ahead.

In response to a higher than average amount of employee turnover, companies interested in hiring permanent employees continued to grow. This held true right across the West with the notable exception of the Edmonton IT market where the majority of the interest was for contractors. In Winnipeg, many contractors have reported multiple offers as activity has warmed up locally in industries such as Government, Telecom and Banking... these organizations are competing with lucrative offers coming from outside the province that would require IT professionals to relocate to other parts of Canada. Victoria's growing IT industry is hoping to entice IT professionals to relocate for the interesting work and island lifestyle. Calgary continues to steamroll ahead on the strength of the Oil & Gas fueled economy with high demand for both permanent employees and contractors.

Hot skill sets in demand include Java and .Net Developers and people with ERP experience in BC; Edmonton has seen more demand for people with Java experience; Calgary companies have been clamouring for PMs and BAs in general and specifically with O&G experience, ECM/Doc Mgt and .Net Developers; and Winnipeg has seen companies looking for Business and Systems Analysts, Security, Citrix/VMWare and .Net Developers.

The GTA economy saw some hard times in the past couple months with Ontario's services sector losing over 30,000 jobs and the province's unemployment rate rising 0.3% to 6.7%. While the staffing industry saw some effects of the hurting economy through a slowdown of orders from the financial services sector, overall orders have not yet been affected. Both contract and permanent technology resources continued to be in high demand in the GTA, but there are signs that companies are beginning to shift focus from fulltime employees towards part-time workers. Telecom and healthcare service companies have not yet slowed, with a demand for Project Architects and Project Managers -- signs that major projects are beginning to get underway.

Some concerns for the industry continue to be the lowering supply of quality talent as many people are choosing to move elsewhere across Canada for work. Furthermore, it is expected that the job market will continue to under perform in Central Canada, meaning staffing should begin to see a slowdown in the coming months.

There has been little progress with the Ontario Government's Vendor of Record (VOR) contract vehicles, those used by the government to hire contractors. The remaining VORs expired at the end of June and though RFPs were released earlier this year and vendors have since submitted proposals, these are still in the evaluation phase. The result has been a slow-down in requests for IT contractors within the provincial government as hiring managers await the new vehicle. Though activity has not stalled completely, hiring managers are currently limited to a more complex and expensive hiring process. It is anticipated that once these vehicles are in place, we will see a sharp increase in hiring activity. The current projected date for rollout of these contract vehicles is September.

As noted, hot jobs in the GTA continue to be those required to begin projects including Project Managers, Business Architects, and Business Analysts. In addition, there is strong demand for skilled developers as well as business intelligence and data warehousing resources.

As summer is in full swing and the calendar year is over the half way point, Eastern Canadian markets are now beginning to bear the brunt of the steady diet of gloomy economic news and forecasts. If a recession is still debatable in definition in economic circles, it is indeed in play in overall job numbers. While for most of '07 and in early '08 we seemed to have dodged the expected labour market slowdowns, recent figures would suggest a definite slowing in the markets is now in full swing - if not a decrease in labour demand. Both Ottawa and, in particular, Montreal have seen demand cool off; however, it is still very much a two sided coin. Especially in Ottawa where overall employment numbers decreased slightly, there still remains a bright, if not well insulated, side in both the technology and in the government sector. Demand for permanent hire in both Ottawa and Montreal throughout the second quarter and into Q3 has softened as many private sector employers are skittish in bringing on headcount. As expected though, the loss in permanent placement has been a gain in contract hiring. The high dollar has certainly had an impact in Ottawa's high tech economy, forcing companies to look to other Asian or European markets to grow. But the federal government continues to insulate the Ottawa market from the negative effects of the greater macro economic factors at play. Hiring continues to be steady, if not spectacular, in the government and with the new TBIPS contract vehicle now fully operational, many departments are making full use of its relative ease to procure a variety of IT contract resources. There has no doubt been some early hiccups as TBIPS has been rolled out to various government departments and used as expected, but it appears once over those early jitters it will be a reliable and user friendly contract vehicle. There has been a pent up demand in government for contract resources in recent months as a number of contracts and supply arrangements ended or ran out of funding.

Ottawa has seen strong demand of late for BI , Data Conversion and ETL resources, QA Testers, Java Developers along with PMs and Data and Application Architects. Skills in demand in Montreal include PMs, Oracle Developers, Java as well as Web Integrators and Business Analysts.