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Most CIOs to hold headcount steady; 12% plan increases

While the majority of CIOs plan to maintain their current IT headcount, 12% are eyeing expansions and 6% are expecting cutbacks in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Meanwhile, finding the right talent is getting harder, according to Robert Half Technology. Two-thirds (66%) of CIOs surveyed by the staffing firm said it's challenging to find skilled professionals today, compared to 48% who thought so in the previous quarter.

BY THE NUMBERS: What do top CIOs make?

Robert Half Technology polled 1,400 CIOs for its latest IT Hiring Index and Skills Report, published this week. With 12% of companies planning to increase the number of full-time IT personnel on their staff and half as many planning cutbacks, the survey projects a net 6% increase in IT hiring activity, which is a gain of two percentage points from the previous quarter's projections.

Corporate confidence is also on the rise: 92% of CIOs said they are confident in their companies' prospects for business growth in the next three months, up five percentage points from last quarter.

The CIOs polled said the most challenging areas to find talent are IT security (cited by 18% of respondents), networking (17%), data/database management (11%) and help desk/technical support (11%). The skill sets in greatest demand are network administration (63%), desktop management (50%) and desktop support (43%). (See also: "5 surprising IT skills that hiring managers want now")

Regionally, CIOs in the mid-Atlantic plan to do the most IT hiring in the fourth quarter, with 16% of executives anticipating adding staff. From an industry perspective, transportation is the hottest sector for IT hiring. Among CIOs in the transportation sector, 18% plan to expand their IT departments.

"CIOs are optimistic but are being careful not to overload their teams with too many projects, given the challenging recruiting environment," John Reed, executive director of Robert Half Technology, said in a statement. "Right now, companies are focused on the 'need-to-have' projects that can enhance security, streamline processes or generate revenue."

Follow Ann Bednarz on Twitter: twitter.com/annbednarz

Read more about infrastructure management in Network World's Infrastructure Management section.

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