Despite small blips last month, payrolls at American companies offering IT-related services and products continue to show strength while increases slowed for overall employment because of the dampening effects of recent hurricanes. Overall nonfarm payrolls rose by only 56,000 jobs last month; that's 1.5% higher than a year earlier, the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.
In a separate survey of households, the government determined the U.S. employment rate in October stood at 5%, down from 5.1% in September.
Job growth last month was meager, at best, outside the areas hit by recent hurricanes. "It is possible, of course, that employment growth for the nation could have been held down by indirect effects of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, for example, because of their impact on gas prices," Labor Statistics commissioner Kathleen Utgoff told the Associated Press.
Still, IT-related industries outperformed the rest of the economy in most instances. Employment in three of four IT-associated sub-sectors—IT services, computer and peripheral manufacturing, and Internet publishing and broadcasting—is at levels higher than it was a year earlier, the government reported. A category that combines ISPs, search portals, and data processing (which includes software makers) remained flat from October 2004.
The greatest growth in employment among tech firms continues to be among those offering IT services, driven by corporate demand for IT know-how. Officially dubbed as computer systems design and related services, payrolls within that sub-sector approached 2 million workers in October, increasing by 7,700 from September and nearly 32,000 from October 2004, a 2.7% increase. As a comparison, employment among all professional and technical services firms rose by 2.5% this past year.
Employment among computer and peripheral equipment manufacturers slipped by 1,600 last month to 212,600. Still, that was 1.4% higher than a year earlier. Job levels among ISP, search portals, and data processing companies fell by 3,400 positions but remained at the same level it stood a year earlier, 389,200.
Companies that exclusively provide Internet publishing and broadcasting content, the smallest of the IT-related sub-sectors, added 300 jobs last month, to 36,400. That's a gain of 3,400, or 10.3%, in one year.
All figures are seasonally adjusted, and September and October numbers are preliminary. Each month, the government surveys some 160,000 businesses and government agencies covering about 400,000 worksites, which includes about one-third of all nonfarm payroll workers.