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4/18/2006
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IT Employment Reaches Record High In U.S.

An InformationWeek analysis of government labor data shows 3.472 million Americans employed in IT through the end of the first quarter.

More Americans are employed in IT than at any time in the nation's history.

IT employment in the United States reached a record high of 3.472 million workers in the 12 months ended March 31, surpassing the 3.455 million IT workers employed the previous quarter and at the end of third quarter 2001, the zenith of the dot-com boom, according to an InformationWeek analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

The IT labor force--employed and unemployed infotech professionals--stood at 3.56 million at the end of the first quarter, the highest number since the end of 2001, when some 3.574 million people called themselves IT pros.

In the past quarter, the IT unemployment rate stood at 2.5%, the lowest level since the end of 2000, when the IT jobless rate held at 2.2%. At the end of first quarter 2005, 3.7% of IT pros found themselves out of work.

With the recession of the early 2000s a distant memory, corporate confidence has returned and companies are investing in IT, including tech payrolls, in order to grow their businesses.

"In the past few years, there's been a big concentration of projects around Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, which put a lot of things on the back burner for companies," says Jim Lanzalotto, VP of strategy and marketing at the Yoh Group, an IT staffing company. "A lot of the SOX projects are completed, and now more business-driven projects--as opposed to finance-driven IT projects--are coming out that are integral to companies."

Today IT jobs are more specialized. Two years ago, companies might have sought customer relationship management project managers; today they seek CRM project managers who know Siebel and the pharmaceutical industry, he says.

Indeed, the complexion of the IT workforce has changed over the past half decade. At the height of the boom days in 2001, computer programmers represented 21% of the IT workforce. Today that percentage has fallen to 17% as the number of more highly trained computer software engineers rose to 24% from 21% of the corporate high-tech labor pool.

Each month the government surveys some 60,000 households and uses that data, among other things, to determine the nation's unemployment rate, which stood at 4.7% in March.

The Labor Department identifies eight IT-related occupations: computer and IS 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.

Statistically, the reliability of data on a single occupation or group of occupations isn't as high as the overall household survey data. To increase reliability, InformationWeek aggregates a full year of data to determine IT employment numbers. So, for instance, results labeled for the first quarter 2006 reflect data collected from second quarter 2005 through first quarter 2006.

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