Hiring in the IT market continues to pick up, with an increased demand for application developers, who have taken it on the chin in recent years because of a bad economy and offshoring.

The economy is strengthening, offshoring is feeling some backlash and many companies aren't spending as much of their IT budgets on compliance projects, according to David Foote, president and chief research officer of Foote Partners, LLC., a New Canaan, Conn.-based industry research firm. And these three aspects of the industry and the economy are pushing hiring forward in the IT arena.

''Hiring is absolutely up,'' says Foote. ''Part of the reason is that companies got a little gun shy about offshoring. It was big a few years ago and it was depressing pay in our country... We track about 195 skills and the biggest gain in the last year was in application development. Tools and language skills were up 17 percent in the last 12 months. That's monster.''

Analysts at Foote Partners just released predictions for the top IT skills and jobs for 2006, based on an IT workforce survey of 50,000 IT professionals. According to the Foote survey, jobs that will be in demand include: application development, data modelers, system auditors, storage administrators and integrators.

What may surprise some is that Foote says hiring in the security space is flat.

''There's been a temporary excess in the [security] market,'' says Foote. ''Hiring has been flat. It's very selective. A lot of money is still going into security training. The SANS Institute classes are still pretty full. Long range it still looks good, but for right now, it's flat.''

The big story in the IT job market is application development, he notes.

For the past few years, some analysts were warning application developers that their time had come and gone. Programming jobs were being shipping overseas at an alarming rate because Indian and Chinese programmers would do the job much cheaper.

Application development was widely considered to be an entry-level job that could be offshored without much notice.

But that doesn't appear to be the case today.

Increasingly, application development is being seen as an upper-level job -- one that is critical to a company moving and growing and in the need for updated and new home-grown software. And some offshoring attempts didn't work out so well, bringing those jobs back to the U.S.

Foote says when you're talking about non-certified application development skills, companies are increasingly looking for C++, Java and Oracle developers. On the certified side, demand is up for Sun Java certifications and IBM's Advanced Developer certification.


But while companies are looking to add new IT employees, they're also being very cautious about, according to Foote.

''They're expecting 2006 to be another good year,'' he says. ''They're expecting a lot of orders from the U.S. and markets around the world. And they're expecting to be spending. But there's still caution around hiring, which has something to do with health care costs. They're being very selective about hiring.''

In an effort to take things slowly, some companies are picking up temp-to-permanent workers, rather than outright hire someone full-time right off the bat. ''There's a 27 percent increase in people who say they're doing temp-to-permanent hires,'' says Foote. ''They're going to try you out for nine months. If they like you, they'll hire you. It's very much about avoiding risk.''