This past year or two, you've likely felt a mix of fear and frustration in the face of the economic downturn: frustration with extra work for lower pay/benefits, and fear of losing your current position or being unable to get a new one if you choose to leave.

Two Challenger, Gray & Christmas studies shed a little warmth on this chilly year.

Study 1: IT is Growing
In a survey of a 150 human resource professions, participants were asked to select one job field that they believe is the best area of study for new college students. Computer science and information technology came in first--engineering came in second and medicine/healthcare came in third.

According to a statement in the survey findings, "The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that computer scientist will be one of the fastest growing occupations over the next decade. Employment among computer and information scientists is expected to grow 22 percent between 2006 and 2016. The number of network systems and data communications analysis is forecast to increase 53 percent."

Study 2: Job Cuts Declining
The period between Labor Day and the end of the year can be a stressful time for employees. Companies are forecasting and budgeting for the next year, which often results in cuts to make a modified budget. (And as we know, the quickest way organizations can slash costs is through staff reductions.)

So, where's the good news? According to a recent study, there's been a downward trend in job cuts since the beginning of the year. Job cuts between January and April 2009 totaled 711,100, while job cuts from May through July total 282,948. The consulting organization predicts that job cuts for the rest of the year will stay consistent with this summer or decline.

“We see more and more signs that the economy is beginning to turn around. While it is too soon to expect a massive hiring binge that will move some of the nearly 20 million jobless Americans back onto payrolls, the pace of job cuts is likely to continue its downward trend,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The takeaway? For IT pros who still hold their current positions, the risk of losing those jobs is going down every day. As for those who are out of work, now might be a good time to pick up additional skills and training, to insure they'll be in a position of advantage as employers start hiring again. These individuals might also consider soliciting part-time services to companies in the area, since these organizations are likely in need of extra staff but can't afford the costs associated with full-time employees.

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