After more than a year of bleak forecasts for IT hiring, at least one new study is projecting dramatic IT job growth in the coming months.

The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), an Arlington, VA-based organization of high-tech employers, is now projecting that more than 1.1 million tech jobs will be available in the next 12 months.

After the dramatic downturn in 2001, when more than 500,000 IT workers were let go, according to ITAA, what accounts for this suddenly rosy hiring forecast? And should we believe it?

Though it’s nice to hear what many of us want to believe—that 2002 will end up being a much better year on the jobs front than 2001—we’re probably a little too jaded now to put on the rose-colored glasses.

Rather, when reading such forecasts, one should take them with a grain of salt, I believe, given that the ITAA and market researchers weren’t exactly warning of impending doom in the winter of 2000-2001. On the contrary, they were banging out a steady drumbeat of a different kind of warning—that of the mythical IT labor shortage, right up through the spring of 2001, which many in the industry remember as the apocalypse (and, in some cases, the last time they saw a steady paycheck).

Given that ITAA is an industry-employer organization, one could theorize about the reasons for this disconnect with the reality that was the IT hiring collapse in 2001. (Hint: Can anyone say H-1B visas?)

Still, echoing those infamous IT hiring forecasts from recent years, this latest ITAA report insists that companies won’t be able to fill roughly 578,000 of the 1.1 million tech jobs they say will be up for grabs in the next 12 months.

The reason? ITAA says the culprit is a consistent “gap” between supply and demand of IT workers despite falling demand during the recession. IT managers surveyed also cited an inability to find qualified candidates, despite the legions of unemployed tech pros. So the mythical IT Labor Shortage morphs into the Great IT Skills Shortage.

Rosy future for the IT job market?

What do you think? Will the hiring market improve for IT pros in 2002? Is there an IT skills shortage? Post your comment in the discussion board below or send us an e-mail.