IT Unemployment at Near 5-Year High

Tech Jobless Rate Reaches 5%; IT Unemployment Up by 100K in Year

By , October 2, 2009.
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IT Unemployment at Near 5-Year High

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he annualized unemployment rate among IT professionals in the United States rose to 5 percent in the third quarter -- the highest level in nearly six years -- and up nearly a full percentage point in just three months, according to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Friday.

Annualized unemployment stood at 4.1 percent in the second quarter of 2009, according to the analysis conducted by Information Security Media Group, publisher of GovInfoSecurity.com, BankInfoSecurity.com and CUInfoSecurity.com. A year ago, annualized joblessness among IT pros stood at 2.3 percent.

These numbers show that the IT profession, like most other occupations, has experienced significant job losses caused by the recession, although declines in the IT field are nowhere near as dire as in the overall workforce. Last month, overall unemployment rose to 9.8 percent, the highest rate since June 1983.

Still, there was no good news in the IT numbers. In the past year, some 100,000 IT workers joined the ranks of the unemployed. And the size of the IT workforce - those holding jobs and the unemployed seeking IT work - fell to below 4 million for the first time in five quarters. Annualized, IT employment stood at 3,775,000 last quarter, with 198,000 out of working and hunting for jobs.

Labor economists and statisticians caution against reading too much into any specific quarter numbers because the sample size is relatively small when compared with the overall workforce. The value of the numbers for any specific occupation group such as IT is to show trends over the course of a year, not necessarily from quarter to quarter.

The small size of the sample could explain the big jump in joblessness last quarter in the subcategory known as network and computer systems administrators, the group that includes many cybersecurity professionals. Its annualized unemployment rate soared to 6.2 percent from 4.4 percent three months earlier.

But relief for IT security specialists could be on the way. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced Thursday that DHS could hire as many as 1,000 cybersecurity professionals over the next three years. And the federal government is ramping up efforts to secure IT assets, not only for itself, but for the mostly privately owned, critical national IT infrastructure elements, such as those managed by utilities and the financial services industries.

The Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks more than 400 occupation titles, including eight involving information technology: computer and information systems managers, computer scientists and systems analysts, computer programmers, computer software engineers, computer support specialists, database administrators, network and computer systems administrators and network systems and data communications analysts. Each month, government survey-takers interview 400,000 households. And using this survey, BLS reports the nation's unemployment rate on the first Friday of each month.

Though BLS publishes employment and unemployment data on individual occupations quarterly, the bureau doesn't promote that fact; the government neither posts them on BLS.gov nor issues a press release touting the stats. They're available upon request, however. So, the figures reported here represent our analysis of the government data.

To enhance reliability, ISMG aggregates a year's worth of data for each quarterly report. For example, to get the third quarter numbers reported here, we added the published quarterly employment statistics from first, second and quarters of 2009 and the fourth quarter of 2008 and then divide by four. This process, in effect, quadruples the sample size and smoothes out some quarter-to-quarter fluctuations in the data that may occur. In effect, it's annualizing the quarterly employment numbers.

Follow Eric Chabrow on Twitter: @GovInfoSecurity

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