High-Tech Unemployment Is Up, But Not Way Up

The data

Unemployment in the United States is rising as the current recession cuts deeper than past downturns. Some key technology sectors are certainly feeling a share of the pain, but through 2008, their situation wasn’t all that bad when compared with unemployment in previous recessions or even in other economic sectors.

In the first quarter of this year, however, high-tech unemployment spiked dramatically compared to 2008. If extrapolated for the full year, 2009’s totals would be the highest in six years, although still only half that for 2001.

Last year’s job losses for computer, electronics, and telecommunications, taken together, were up 50 percent compared with the year before--but 2007’s numbers were unusually low, according to data provided to IEEE Spectrum by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an employment consulting firm in Chicago. The 156 000 jobs lost in 2008 were a far cry from 2001’s high-water mark of 696 000. Compare that to the automotive industry, where the job market is heading over a cliff.

Of course, these figures on job losses don’t give a full picture of unemployment, because they don’t take into account the new positions being filled. Still, Challenger spokes­person James Pedderson says, the data offer a good picture of how things will be going in the next few months.

Pedderson also notes that unemployment doesn’t hit all age groups equally. The overall U.S. unemployment rate has almost doubled for workers 35 to 44, but it is still far higher among the young. Pedderson expects the new crop of college graduates to feel the most pain, with both internships and regular jobs hard to come by.

SOURCES: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, New York Federal Reserve Bank, http://www.newyorkfed.org/markets/statistics/dlyrates/fedrate.html, Yahoo Finance, http://tinyurl.com/cboecl

*Q1 2009 figures are actual; 2009 totals are projected.

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