CIOs might want to ask Santa\u2014or the CFO\u2014to tuck an extra wad of cash into next year's hiring budget: Starting salaries for IT professionals will increase an average of 5.3 percent in 2008, according to Robert Half Technology's annual salary survey. But that's not all. Hiring managers should be prepared to shell out more to fill in-demand jobs such as lead applications developer, messaging administrator and data modeler, where base compensation is expected to be 7 percent higher than last year's forecast. Strong demand for technology workers is also predicted in the financial services, healthcare and commercial construction sectors in 2008. What's driving this demand for IT hires? A couple of factors are at work. Companies have continued with expansion plans despite a US economy that still struggles with the troubles of the housing and credit industries. Meanwhile, increasing reliance on technology by business and a shrinking pool of skilled IT labor have ignited a new war for talent. In response, some companies are raising base compensation for new hires and offering additional perks, including signing bonuses and equity incentives, to recruit and retain top candidates, according to Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology. So which jobs will see the greatest starting salary gains in 2008? The Half survey says:\n\nLead applications developers, with base compensation expected to rise 7.6 percent to a range of $80,250 to $108,000.\n\nApplications architects, who should see their pay jump 7.5 percent to a range between $87,250 and $120,000. \n\nMessaging administrators, whose starting salaries are forecast to increase 7.1 percent to $55,000 to $77,750 annually. Robert Half Technology's annual salary survey is based on an in-depth analysis of thousands of job placements by the US offices of the IT consulting and staffing company.