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Jobs merrier at Christmas

THE patchy IT recruitment sector had a subdued month in October but recruiters predict a strengthening market leading up to the end of the year.

The Olivier Job Index suggested interest rate rises had hurt the overall market, which fell 1.67 per cent, seasonally adjusted, last month. The technology sector also dipped 0.78 per cent.

"The fundamental issue with IT is until business investment returns, it won't bounce back in a strong way, " Olivier Group director Robert Olivier said.

"And a rise in interest rates is not going to encourage that return of business confidence."

The Olivier data shows there were 16,106 IT positions vacant online, which was down 47 per cent on the same time last year.

The biggest decline in IT vacancies was in instruction, training and technical writing, which was down 10.3 per cent.

Internet graphics and multimedia roles slipped 12 per cent, and management and sales fell 1.9 per cent.

Software development and engineering vacancies were up 0.6 per cent, and networks, communication and security roles climbed 1.9 per cent.

"It wouldn't surprise me if we ended up with a positive number for November, but it would be no more than making up for the previous month or twos drop," Mr Olivier said.

"It is still very quiet and still very stagnant."

Job opportunities were expected to pick up in February or March next year.

Peoplebank chief operating officer Peter Acheson said demand had been firming for both contract and permanent recruitment roles.

"We saw that October was very flat after stronger demand in July, August and September, but we have now seen in the last 10 days a lift again in job demand coming through."

A Peoplebank salary survey, to be released this week, shows no marked changes in IT salaries, but a rise is expected by June.

This rise will most likely be about 3-4 per cent.

"Looking at Peoplebank's pipeline, I'm expecting that the IT market will continue to strengthen for the rest of this year and into 2010," Mr Acheson said.

"I don't want to suggest that we'll be in a boom market overnight, there could well be some patchy periods amid the growth." Hays IT Australia and New Zealand director Peter Noblet said there was cautious optimism in the market.

"We are working on more jobs now than we have done at any stage in the last six months, but nowhere close to what it was probably 18 months ago."

Mr Noblet said employers were expected to hold back from significant recruitment until the New Year.

"It will slow down in December, but the pipeline will be quite good in the New Year if the market conditions remain as stable as they are currently," he said.

Spark Recruitment director Luke Singleton said job flows had increased in late October and early November, particularly in the financial services sector.

"The vendors are starting to position for growth in 2010 - so are looking at their resourcing needs too," he said.

"I expect November to be busy with demand tailing off in December," Mr Singleton said. "It will be a slow January, but all indicators are that February will be strong."

Mr Singleton said employers were concerned that there would be churn in the new year due to the return of market demand and job candidate confidence, which would result in an increase in wage pressure.