Brights Spots in Tech Amid Disappointing Job Numbers

Two tech-related sectors bucked the trend of Friday’s labor market report, which showed the overall unemployment rate rising to 8.2 percent.

Computer systems design and related services was up 5.3 percent (2,600 jobs) and management and tech consulting services rose 2.2 percent (3,100 positions). That dovetails with a report Dice published which showed 20,000 consulting positions were added during the first quarter. (Another Dice report noted that, on average, consultants make at least $20,000 more than their full-time counterparts.)

BLS May 2012 Job Numbers

The Labor Department said that the overall professional and business services category grew by 1.4 million since September 2009. Manufacturing of computer and electronic products showed an increase of 1.7 percent in May — 2,700 workers were added —  though manufacturing overall grew at a slower pace than in the past few months.

However, there were declines in telecommunications (down 2 percent, or 1,300 jobs) as well as data processing, hosting and related services (down 0.3 percent, or 300 positions). Carriers have been slashing their ranks for years, as they move from land line to wireless services, and greater efficiencies have meant fewer jobs in wireless as well.

Layoffs Still a Damper

The layoff news has been pretty overwhelming lately, with HP, Yahoo, Motorola Mobility and others announcing significant reorganizations. Global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported that with the HP layoffs, tech job cuts are at their highest level in three years – and for the month, tech job cuts were five times that of the next-highest industry sector.

Still, there are good trends out there. The Dice analysis of first-quarter data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed unemployment rates for tech pros far below those of the overall work force:

  • Network architects – 0.5 percent
  • Database administrators – 0.8 percent
  • Computer and information systems managers – 2.4 percent
  • Computer systems analysts – 2.7 percent
  • Programmers – 3.6 percent
  • Web developers – 3.6 percent
  • Software developers – 4.4 percent
  • Network and systems administrators – 5.7 percent
  • Computer support specialists – 6.3 percent

And in its May report on tech pay, consultant Foote Partners found broad gains in market value for skills, offsetting the 2.7 percent loss in Web/e-commerce skills:

  • Messaging and communication – up 4.1 percent
  • Systems/networking –2.6 percent
  • Database – 2.5 percent
  • Operating systems – 2.5 percent
  • Application development – 1.7 percent
  • Management/methodology/process – 1.0 percent
  • SAP and enterprise business applications – 0.3 percent

Foote Partners routinely notes that the Labor Department categories are woefully out of date because many tech skills are part of other “hybrid” business positions.

But: Forbes suggests that HP might not be done cutting. The magazine likens the tech industry to the automotive industry, in which wages stalled as pay in other parts of the world caught up.

Related Links

2 Responses to “Brights Spots in Tech Amid Disappointing Job Numbers”

  1. Computer Support Specialist. In many places, that’s the newfangled name for Senior Systems Administrator — only now they pay you < $45-50K/yr, usually on an hourly basis. You're still expected to be on 24-hour call and keep up with the latest technology, plus in addition to your server and network responsibilities you also get to do all the "technician" jobs such as stringing cable, fixing PCs, and handling all the user support calls. They should call it what it truly is: Departmental Jockstrap.

  2. Kudos to Dice for displaying the BLS numbers and not some press release from a trade association.

    On the Occupational data/unemployment rates, the BLS strongly suggest that these data should be “smoothed” over the most recent four quarters. I glanced at the Dice report (PDF), but did not see a reference to “smoothing”.