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Canadian IT Job Market -- Quarterly Outlook July 2009

This is a look at the Canadian IT Job market across Canada from our company's perspective. We have offices in 10 cities across the country and our three General Managers have tapped into their market knowledge to write this ... hope you find it helpful. I will stress that this is not a scientific or statistical look at the market ... this is what we see day in day out "in the trenches" of the war for talent across Canada.

Despite the hope that a recovery is underway, there was little inspiration in the job market across Canada this past quarter. Employers remain cautious about hiring new people or investing in new projects. Perhaps the employment rate offers a glimmer of hope. While it is still dropping, it has been doing so at a decreasing rate.

According to Statistics Canada's Labour Force Survey for June 2009, Canada suffered a net loss of 13,000 jobs over the last three months, in stark contrast to the massive losses in the first three months of 2009, which saw 273,000 lost jobs. Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta's employment rates remain steady, but Ontario's rates continue to drop. While full-time employment is still decreasing across the country, there has been a noticeable rise in self-employment, which rose by 37,000 jobs in June.

Last summer in Western Canada, a number of indicators suggested a busy summer, including an increased demand for Project Managers, Business Analysts, and Architects, as well as a growing interest in permanent placements. The entire region was showing good activity, specifically in Winnipeg, Victoria, and Calgary. The Fall, however, saw the economy slow down and our experience suggests that since April, the job market had slowed down significantly. Many projects have been cancelled or postponed due to cautious hiring practices in all industries. Having said that, this past quarter has shown some positive signs for the West, which we feel indicate an impending increase in activity -- the question remains "when?".

As the summer progresses, it is normal for projects to slow down due to vacation time; however, because of the economy, RFP processes, and other internal complications, many companies are actually behind on their IT plans. We are hopeful that this may lead to an active summer in the IT job market. The Government of Alberta has already started putting out a number of RFPs, and many other organizations and industries are expected to follow suit.

In the West, the overall interest in permanent placements is still low, but there has been some increase in demand for contract workers over the past quarter, indicating that projects are getting underway, but companies are still cautious and aren't ready to create any more full-time positions. Even for contract resources, hiring managers are still exercising prudence, taking longer to make a final hiring decision.

Skills in demand in Victoria and Vancouver continue to be Siebel, QA, and CRM. BAs, PMs, SharePoint, and LiveLink are the major skills for Calgary, while Edmonton's hot jobs include Oracle, BA, and PM positions. Skill sets in demand in Regina include BAs and PMs and Winnipeg's hot jobs include Network Administrators, Help Desk Analysts, and Business Analysts.

At this time last year, the job market in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) was already starting to experience some slowdown in the job market. This summer, though, the market is looking positive with some healthy signs of growth. The finance industry, which has not seen much activity in the past few months, is beginning to identify gaps and build its resources, while the Government of Ontario is also beginning to increase its volume in hiring. Due to recent "scandals", however, some ministries in the Government have been a little more hesitant to hire extra resources.

The GTA was into recession earlier than Western Canada and, consequently, appears to be coming out of recession ahead of the West. IT contract opportunities in the GTA have increased in the past quarter, and permanent staffing needs are also showing signs of significant growth. Many companies have started to identify areas where they are lacking skills and filing them with full-time positions, particularly Project Managers, Infrastructure Managers, and Business Analysts. This compliments the trend of an increased interest among IT professionals in permanent positions, if not long, stable contracts.

In the past quarter, there has not been a significant change in the region's hot skills. In addition to the roles mentioned above, Business Transformation continues to be a desirable skill in the area, and ERP professionals, specifically SAP Functional Consultants, are once again in high demand.

Activity in Eastern Canada through the second quarter can best be described as spotty. Much like the weather, some days it's bright and optimistic, but mostly dark clouds and rainy days. It's hard to say definitively where the market is headed, but organizations overall continue to be nervous and cautious in their project and hiring plans. Most pundits and industry observers are predicting a long, slow recovery from this economic turmoil.

In Ottawa, Nortel, the once technology giant and anchor that was the foundation of Ottawa's Silicon Valley North, is getting chopped and sold piece by piece while in bankruptcy. A number of smaller technology companies continue to operate, but none with the job and economic clout of a Nortel. The Federal government has become the engine that drives the market. While the focus of the government's economic stimulus is on infrastructure type projects and there are no real dollars or plan for the technology services industry, it is hoped there will be indirect benefits in IT as the money makes its way through the economy.

Overall, the second quarter saw no bump in demand from the Feds as a result of post year-end "March madness", as new budgets saw little or no net new funding in IT. At a macro level, the bureaucracy is focused on the "issue " of bundling contracts, particularly GENS, the government's first shared services attempt to award one large contract for network services across the government. It is undoubtedly the largest IT project in a very long time, both in years and dollars, likely billions. The political furor that it's caused as SMEs fight to be included has been loud and furious, perhaps to the detriment of other projects and certainly away from any sense of business as usual, if there is still such a thing. It is hoped the summer break will allow cooler heads to prevail and activity will increase once again in the fall. Other smaller initiatives like significant changes to the EI program and programs directed to monitoring and combating a potential fall flu epidemic will require increased resources in Health and HRSDC.

Montreal too has been quiet as the manufacturing sector continues to suffer; however, there appear to be signs that the there will be increased demand for IT jobs in the financial sector in Montreal.

Jobs in demand in the region this quarter included Security (all aspects), Infrastructure, Desktop and Network/System Administrators, as well as skilled, experienced Oracle resources.