IT Loses Jobs in April but Rate of Decline Ebbs

Government economists report that the high-tech industry is still losing jobs, but the loss rate is slower than it was a year ago.
Government economists report that the high-tech industry is still losing jobs, but the loss rate is slower than it was a year ago.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released numbers today showing that Computer Systems Design and Related Services, a category that encompasses a wide range of tech jobs, lost 3,900 jobs positions in April. And the same category is down 21,000 jobs from the same time frame last year. That's a 2-percent loss, leaving the total number employed in this sector at 1,120,000.

''It's a decline... and every job is important,'' says Laura Kelter, supervisory economist with the Washington, D.C.-based Bureau of Labor Statistics. ''But that rate of decline has slowed. Last September and October, 10,000 jobs were added and this March they added 3,000 more. It's an improvement compared to what they've seen in the past.''

And the recent past has been grim for the tech industry, which took a heavy battering when the dot-com bubble burst at the turn of the century. Once a job sector with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, more jobs than there were trained people to fill them, sweeping layoffs changed the face of the industry. Impressive expense accounts, million-dollar homes and flashy cars were replaced with unemployment lines, retraining and repossessed possessions.

In 2002, the tech sector was losing an average of 20,000 jobs a month.

''The average losses this year, in comparison, are much better,'' says Kelter. ''It's improving.''

The telecom industry also is suffering, but not as badly as it has been.

April saw the loss of 1,700 telecom jobs. During the past year that industry has dropped 38,000 jobs to end up with 1,055,000 jobs today. That accounts for a 3 percent job loss.

''With telecom, last year in April it was losing more jobs,'' says Kelter. ''The rate of job losses has slowed. It's still losing but it's better.''

The Bureau of Labor Statistics lumps ISPs, data processing jobs and portals into one category, which lost 600 jobs, or 2 percent, last month. Since April of 2003, the group has lost 9,500 jobs to end up with a current total of 480,000 jobs.

``In these three industries,'' adds Kelter, ''there hasn't been a large turnaround yet, but there is improvement.''

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that over non-farm payroll employment increased by 288,000 in April, and the unemployment rate was about unchanged at 5.6 percent. The April increase in payroll employment follows a gain of 337,000 in March, and job growth again was widespread. In April, employment rose substantially in several service-providing industries, construction continued to add jobs, and there was a noteworthy job gain in durable goods manufacturing.

The unemployment rate has been either 5.6 or 5.7 percent since last December.






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