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The IT recruitment market showed spotty signs of growth between October and December last year, with the number of advertised permanent and contract techie jobs showing modest increases.

The latest statistics from CWJobs' Quarterly IT Skills Index found that permanent IT vacancies rose by an average of 4 per cent between October and December 2003, while IT contract jobs increased by just one per cent.

The improvement bucks the seasonal trend which usually sees December being one of the slowest IT recruitment months of the year, according to the Internet job site.

The study predicts that the increases, although small, will mark a turning point for beleaguered IT pros, as they indicate that firms are again confident enough to recruit staff for what they expect will be a busier new year.

The numbers of advertised contract vacancies have consistently increased over the last 12 months; however the rate at which they are growing was found to have slowed down to just 1 per cent in the final quarter of 2003, with a total of 14847 jobs advertised.

Outer London, the research found, was the only region to see growth in both contract (16 per cent) and permanent jobs (14 per cent).

The only other area where there was a growth in the number of advertised contract positions was West & Wales and here the increase was only one per cent.

In fact the study makes grim reading for contractors outside of London, noting that contract positions dropped most dramatically in East Midlands (21 per cent).

However, while contractors were left with slim pickings, most regions enjoyed growth in permanent vacancies with the biggest rises to be found in Outer London (14 per cent), West Midlands (10 per cent) and Inner London (9 per cent).

These increases in the number of available permanent IT jobs marked the first signs of growth since the beginning of 2003, CWJobs noted. The total number of permanent IT jobs advertised between October and December 2003 was 48,975 - 97 per cent of which were advertised online.

The only regions found to experience a decline in permanent vacancies were: West & Wales - dropping seven per cent - and Scotland & Northern Ireland, which fell by 14 per cent.

From a vertical viewpoint, the research found that IT jobseekers in the manufacturing industry and public sector saw the numbers of available contract and permanent positions plummet.

Contract jobs in Manufacturing dropped by over a fifth and permanent vacancies by only slightly less. In the Public Sector there were 12 per cent fewer contract jobs up for grabs and 5 per cent fewer permanent placements.

The finance sector, CWJobs said, was largely responsible for keeping the IT contract market buoyant between July and September 2003, with an increase in both contract (seven per cent) and permanent (11 per cent) vacancies. CWJobs also notes an upturn in demand from the software, media and consultancy sectors.

Microsoft Office was identified as the most popular skill for IT contractors during the final quarter of 2003, followed by SQL and Oracle. The top three skills demanded for permanent staff were SQL, Unix and C++. ®

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