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1/10/2005
04:09 PM
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IT Unemployment Falls To 4.3% In 2004, Lowest Level In Years

The size of the IT workforce is down slightly, along with the unemployment rate.

Unemployment among American IT workers last year fell to its lowest level in three years.

An InformationWeek analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that 4.3% of Americans who consider themselves IT professionals were unemployed in 2004, down from 5.6% in 2003. That's the lowest jobless level since 2001, when the rate stood at 3.7%.

Unemployment for all occupations averaged 5.5% in 2004. In 2003, that rate was 6%.

The size of the IT workforce last year slipped by 39,000 to 3.48 million. Since 2000, the size of that workforce has remained relatively flat, dipping by a fraction in four years. But since 2000, the overall civilian workforce has increased by 3.4%.

The IT workforce may be stagnant, but employment isn't. The number of IT professionals employed rose last year to 3.37 million, up from 3.33 million in 2003. And, in another good sign, the number of people unsuccessfully seeking jobs in IT fell to 149,000 in 2004 from 197,000 in 2003.

Though the size of the tech workforce is down since the beginning of the millennium, the number of IT workers employed in 2004 is 2.3% higher than it was in 2000. In contrast, overall employment levels in those four years increased a mere 1.7%. Despite fewer people entering or remaining in the IT labor force, those that do have had more success in finding and keeping jobs than workers in other fields.

The government surveys 60,000 households each month to determine the unemployment rate, and the data presented here reflects an annualized monthly average of those findings. Figures aren't seasonally adjusted.

Unemployment levels in 2004 varied among the eight occupations that make up the IT profession as defined by the government. Economists caution against reading too much into individual occupation rates because small sample sizes for each category makes the data less reliable than the overall numbers. The unemployment rate last year for specific occupations was:

-- Computer and IS managers, 4.0%

-- Computer scientists and systems analysts, 4.0%

-- Computer programmers, 5.6%

-- Computer software engineers, 3.3%

-- Computer support specialists, 4.7%

-- Database administrators, 2.1%

-- Network and computer systems administrators, 3.5%

-- Network systems and data communications analysts, 5.9%

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