Demand for high-tech workers in the Twin Cities will rise in the second half of the year, a new study showed, though not quite at the record pace at the end of 2016.

Over the next six months, 24 percent of Twin Cities companies plan to hire more IT professionals, an increase of 4 percentage points from the first half of 2017, according to research by Robert Half Technology, a tech-job placement agency.

Hiring demand for IT workers hit a peak of 29 percent during the last half of 2016, according to the survey of chief information officers.

Robert Half Technology has tracked IT hiring across the country since 1995, and now surveys 25 cities. The study has the Twin Cities tied for having the third highest percentage of projected new tech employees among the 25 cities surveyed for the second half of 2017, behind San Francisco and Dallas, and tied with Philadelphia and Cleveland.

The numbers highlight an upsurge in Twin Cities' companies seeking employees who can keep them up to date with modern website design, mobile phone and app developments, digital marketing, and analytics and trends.

"We are hiring a lot of data and analytics people," said Matt Matsui, senior vice president at Calabrio, a software company headquartered in Minneapolis. "It's really taken off for us, we're hiring a lot of people with cloud-based skills."

In the latest Robert Half survey, 63 percent of Twin Cities' respondents said it was difficult to find skilled IT professionals. Kathy Northamer, district president of Robert Half in the Twin Cities, said it can be tough to find employees who can combine technological and business skills.

The study also showed the biggest tech concern that Twin Cities companies have is safeguarding information. Northamer said this has led to an increase in demand for IT professionals who can prevent data breaches.

Northamer said the high demand for advanced web designs and mobile technology has also led to a comeback for IT help desk jobs. The study shows 57 percent of respondents deemed help-desk support the most valuable skill.

"The web developers are improving websites, people want their websites to draw people in, and when you have [an] advanced website like that, it needs more support professionals who can keep it up and running," Northamer said. "There's been strong momentum for IT hiring going into the second half of the year."

Desktop support is the most sought-after skill by businesses, followed by Windows administration, database management, telecommunications support, business intelligence and reporting, and web development, according to the study.

Northamer expects the numbers of tech jobs to increase slightly in future surveys, which Robert Hall does every six months, barring anything unexpected in the economy.

"If all things stay the same in the economy, I think it will go up. Technology is changing a lot, I don't see it going down. Unless the unpredictable happens," she said. "It's a very exciting time to be in technology."

Patrick Thomas • 612-673-7740