FORTUNE -- At first glance, you might think that anyone with up-to-date IT skills and a few years of work experience has it made in the shade. Unemployment among this group has dropped from 4.2% in the third quarter of last year to 3.3% now, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics cited in a new report by tech job site Dice.com, and the jobless rate in some specialized fields is even lower -- a scant 2.3% for software developers, for instance.
Tech consulting alone has seen 10 straight quarters of job growth, with more than 56,000 new positions created so far in 2012, about 17,000 of them in September. At the same time, pay is rising. Base salaries are expected to climb by an average of 5.3% in the year ahead, according to the latest salary guide from researchers at staffing firm Robert Half International. Mobile app developers will get the biggest raises, at around 9%. Network engineers (especially wireless), data modelers, and portal administrators will see higher-than-average pay hikes, too.
So skilled IT professionals should have no trouble finding jobs, or changing jobs, right? Well, not exactly. For one thing, computer and electronics manufacturers have continued to cut headcount, as they have for the past few years, with about 10,000 layoffs announced so far in 2012. All that extra talent adds to the competition for available openings.
Another fly in the ointment is that so many companies are moving to the cloud that they no longer need as many people in-house. "The landscape is really changing. A few years ago, every company needed its own webmaster, systems administrator, and IT manager, for example," says Michael Morell. "Now, many of those functions are moving to cloud hosts like Amazon and Rackspace. If you're an infrastructure person, there are just fewer opportunities."
Morell is managing partner at Riviera Partners, a San Francisco-based IT recruiting firm whose client list includes Twitter, LinkedIn (LNKD), Groupon (GRPN), Dropbox, Pinterest, and Zappos. He notes that, when it comes to finding a tech job, geography is destiny. More
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