The job market is good for software developers these days. If you have hired - or placed - any recently you know that. But do you know the number one thing hiring managers are looking for in their search for developers, engineers, architects and leads? According to a new report from Dice, it's Java/J2EE skills and experience by a wide margin.

"For a programming language that started to be commercialized about 20 years ago, it's stranglehold on modern development is unshakable," says Shravan Goli, President, Dice.

"For a programming language that started to be commercialized about 20 years ago, Java's stranglehold on modern development is unshakable."

It's not just technical expertise and skills the marketplace is looking for according to Goli. He says experience is clearly of value, with many hiring mangers seeking senior developers.

"In my own hiring, I've taken to matching less experienced developers, with a more experienced counterpart as a way to build our team in a tight market," adds Goli.

Just how tight is the market?

In the first quarter of 2014, the unemployment rate for software developers was 2.8%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That compares to 5% in the second quarter of 2009 (the quarter in which the "recession" officially ended) and 5.5% in the first quarter of 2010.

The U.S. IT industry - software developers, computer manufacturers, and telecom companies - comprises around 168,145 employers (that is, companies with payrolls), who employ a total of around 4.6 million workers, both technical and nontechnical, according to research company CompTIA.

In the first quarter of 2014 the unemployment rate for software developers was 2.8%

Additionally, there are around 421,174 "self‐employed, non-employer" entities, which include consultants, contractors, and others that don't have a payroll. In all, that means the U.S. IT industry represents around 5 million jobs.

It is estimated there are around 4.16 million core IT jobs spread out among all industries in the United States.

As for the future, a CompTIA report says the IT occupation with the highest project growth through 2020 is...systems software developer. The total number of jobs is expected to grow by 32%, from 387,050 to 510,906. Systems software developers currently earn around $100,420 per year.

On Dice, hiring managers searched thousands of times between January 1 and April 15 of this year for software developers, engineers, architects and leads. Of the most sought-after skills and qualifications for those roles, this list makes up the Top 40.

1. Java/J2EE
2. .NET
3. C++
4. C#
5. Senior
6. SQL
7. HTML
8. C
9. Web
10. Linux
11. WPF
12. JavaScript
13. SDLC
14. Python
15. Test, Tester, Testing
16. Embedded
17. ASP.NET
18. Oracle
19. HTML5
20. PHP
21. SharePoint
22. Unix
23. RWD
24. Mobile
25. Ruby
26. Security
27. Database
28. XML
29. Perl
30. Agile
31. Android
32. CSS
33. Computer Science
34. Network
35. iOS
36. Websphere
37. Spring
38. QA
39. MVC
40. SDET

Tags: Java, News, Software Development, .NET, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Dice, Software developer, IT hiring, Shravan Goli, CompTIA, Programming languages, Programming