Market for Executive Jobs Loosens Up in April

Recruiters' confidence in the executive job market crept up in April 2009, according to ExecuNet's Recruiter Confidence Index. Unfortunately, IT professionals' confidence in the economy, job market and their employers' futures hit an all-time low during the first quarter of 2009.

ExecuNet's Recruiter Confidence Index ticked slightly higher in April, 2009, indicating that the market for executive jobs is showing signs of growth after bottoming out in November, 2008.

This month, 41 percent of 142 executive recruiters polled by ExecuNet said they're "confident or very confident" that the executive job market will improve in the next six months. Half of respondents believe their search assignments will increase at least 10 percent over the next six months. Only 15 percent of search professionals say they're pessimistic about the future of the market for executive jobs.

April marked the Recruiter Confidence Index's second consecutive increase since March, 2008. In March, 2009, 38 percent of recruiters called themselves confident or very confident that the exec job market would improve; that was a 10 percent hop from February's results.

ExecuNet President Mark Anderson says April's numbers are "consistent with earlier forecasts that indicated that the employment market for executives will improve before the end of the year."

The Recruiter Confidence Index is a leading indicator of the executive job market. Anderson says it predicted the end of the last recession and the peak of the U.S. economy's most recent expansion.

Why Recruiters Are Hopeful

Anderson says recruiters are growing optimistic about the executive job market because they see small signs of economic improvement. Specifically, consumer confidence is on the rise, and the stock market is much less volatile than it's been. Recruiters are also hearing from companies that are looking to take advantage of the downturn by upgrading their management teams, he says.

"Executive search firms, particularly those that specialize in high-growth industries such as healthcare, biotech, energy, environmental services and clean technologies, have seen a clear improvement in assignment growth in recent weeks," says Anderson.

What the Recruiter Confidence Index Means to CIOs

A trend Executive Recruiter Martha Heller identified in a recent Movers & Shakers blog may corroborate the Recruiter Confidence Index's forecast for the executive employment market.

Heller, who works for search firm ZRG Partners, notes that some companies are waiting at least until the end of the year to replace CIOs who've left their positions, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. The Recruiter Confidence Index suggests that the search market will be much stronger at the end of the year, when companies that have held off on hiring new CIOs may decide it's time for them to find replacements.

IT Workers Remain Pessimistic

The outlook for executive jobs may be looking up, but IT professionals' confidence in the economy, the job market and their employers' futures hit a new low during the first quarter of 2009, according to Technisource's IT Employee Confidence Index.

See how IT employees' confidence measured up during the fourth quarter of 2008.

Just six percent of tech workers think the economy is improving, while two-thirds (66 percent) believe it continues to deteriorate. During the fourth quarter of 2008, 10 percent thought it was improving and 76 percent thought it was weakening.

IT workers are even more pessimistic about the job market. Nearly 80 percent believe fewer IT jobs are available, and for good reason: Job search site Beyond.com reported in February that demand for IT jobs was starting to decline. Only seven percent of IT professionals see more job opportunities.

Despite their bleak outlook on the job market, 38 percent of IT professionals plan to start a job search, and 37 percent are confident they'll find one. Almost half (46 percent) intend to sit tight, while 29 percent view their odds of finding a new job as grim, according to the Technisource data.

IT workers' feelings of job security also remain shaky, according to Technisource's findings. About one-fourth (24 percent) are concerned they'll lose their job in a layoff over the next 12 months. That's not surprising considering the number of layoffs that have already affected IT workers.

The good news? Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of IT professionals think their jobs are safe.

The first quarter 2009 IT Employee Confidence Index is based on a survey Harris Interactive conducted online on behalf of IT services provider Technisource in January, February and March. Harris polled 8,396 employed adults, 424 of whom work in IT-related positions.

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