In a year defined by economic uncertainty, the IT jobs market has held steady and the signs are in place for a brighter 2012, according to vacancy and salary data from specialist IT recruiter Computer People.

IT professionals have had reason to be positive in 2011, as monthly vacancies held steady and the sector saw a year-on-year rise of 5.8%, based on the recruiter’s data. The year has not, however, passed without challenges. The hype around a possible double dip recession, the impact of Greece, Italy and other European countries potentially defaulting on their debt, and a cautious consumer market contributed to flat recruitment (-0.24%) over the seven months to October – enduring beyond the brief summer dip that is typical of the recruitment market.

All eyes are now on consumer spending figures as the traditionally busy festive season approaches. So far, low levels of consumer spending have caused many businesses to delay their recruitment drives. The retail sector, traditionally building up its workforce at this time of the year, was hit hard in October, with permanent vacancies falling 7.9% after a strong summer of growth.

Despite recent stagnation, there are signs of a positive turn in the market. Traditionally, the three sectors of ‘media, new media & creative’, ‘financial, banking & insurance’ and ‘telecoms’ are the first to strengthen their IT resources as the economy turns. Over the past month, all three sectors have showed notable recruitment growth (media up 2.5%, financial up 1.4% and telecoms up 4.9%).

Salaries have also remained strong across the IT sector, with 5.6% growth over the past year for permanent staff. Contract staff also enjoyed a 5.3% rise as businesses called on short term resourcing to complete necessary projects without adding to fixed costs. Developers and project managers have been the roles most in demand, indicating that businesses are promoting innovation and new IT projects. This marks a positive shift from the recession, when many businesses cancelled projects and focused their IT function on everyday maintenance rather than strategic developments.

Sid Barnes, Executive Director, Computer People, said “Despite a challenging economic backdrop, the IT jobs market has remained buoyant in 2011, even as UK unemployment hit 8.1%, its highest level in 15 years. It looks as though 2012 will bring more positive news for IT professionals, as businesses begin to accept that the uncertainty of the economy is now the norm and continue with IT projects as planned. We are seeing signs of a shift back towards a firmly candidate-led market – meaning more job opportunities, and better employment terms for skilled personnel.

“Companies increasingly need to move quickly during the recruitment process to secure the best staff as competition is rising. This will become more important as we approach the London 2012 Olympics. An increasing number of projects are coming to fruition and confidence, excitement and anticipation is building. London is set to be on the world stage and many organisations will expect the influx of tourism to boost business. As preparation starts for this we anticipate hiring requirements across the board to increase.”