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2/15/2002
12:46 PM
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IT Jobless Rate On Rise Again

Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data reveals that unemployment among IT workers approached 6% in January, up from 4.4% in December and 2.7% in January 2001. The previous high was 5.5% in November.

IT unemployment continued its climb to record heights in January after a one-month reprieve in December, when the jobless rate dipped for the first time in seven months. An analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data reveals that unemployment among IT workers approached 6% last month, up from 4.4% in December and 2.7% in January 2001. The previous high was 5.5%, posted in November.

Employment experts say the rise in IT joblessness should soon end as the nation begins to recover from the recession. The job portal HotJobs.com reports that postings for IT jobs, which fell by 19% between July and August, have slowed to a 5% decline between December and January, suggesting the recovery is in sight. At employment service TMP Worldwide Inc., parent of HotJobs' rival Monster.com, requests for new IT job orders are on the rise, particularly for network infrastructure posts. "Everyone has a PC in every office in every business," says executive VP John Rawlinson. "The workers required to support those networks ain't goin' away. It's only going to grow. That's become fairly clear."

As IT unemployment grew last month, the IT workforce force--a combination of IT workers and the unemployed seeking IT jobs--shrank to numbers not seen since before the dot-com boom. Further analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics' numbers reveals that 270,000 fewer people worked in IT in January than a year earlier. That's a 9.1% decline, to 2.71 million workers.

Laid-off workers become discouraged with their vocations and some look elsewhere for new careers. "People leaving the career is just an economic-cycle thing," says Barbara Gomolski, a research director at IT advisory firm Gartner. "When people get laid off, they go back to school and become a chef, which is what they really wanted to do all along. Getting laid off is also a time for reflection for a lot of people. They're out of a job, working temporarily or freelance, and they're exploring new options."

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