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The recession has delayed a staffing crisis across IT departments of US state governments, but state CIOs expect the buffer will only go so far.

A survey recently completed by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) found that more than half of state CIOs was having a hard time filling vacant IT positions. The issue is not as acute with entry-level positions, because the general unemployment rates remain high.

Nearly 80% of respondents said state salary rates were the main reason it was hard to find new IT employees and to keep existing ones. The CIOs' greatest challenge has been developing, supporting and maintaining IT services for their customers, while hiring freezes and elimination of vacant positions persist.

About one-quarter of respondents said that between 21% and 30% of their employees would reach retirement age within the next five years. Majority of the CIOs, however, said the recession had caused many state IT employees postpone retirement even though they were eligible to do it.

The survey was conducted to follow up on a 2007 prediction by many state CIOs that a potential shortage of government IT workers was on the horizon. The reasoning was that the baby-boomer generation was approaching retirement age and younger workers were losing interest in government IT jobs.

The responses indicated that workforce shortage had not been witnessed as widely as expected, largely due to the recession.

NASCIO conducted the web-based survey across all US state IT departments and received responses from most. Responses came from 40 states, the District of Columbia and American Samoa.