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4/21/2006
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More U.S. Workers Have IT Jobs Than Ever Before

U.S. IT employment reached a record high of 3.472 million in the 12 months ended March 31, surpassing the 3.455 million employed the previous quarter.

Despite the growth of outsourcing and a consolidating tech industry, more Americans were employed in IT last quarter than at any other time in the nation's history.

IT employment in the United States reached a record high of 3.472 million 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 of 2001, the height of the dot-com employment boom, according to InformationWeek's analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

The number of employed and unemployed Americans calling themselves IT professionals--the IT labor force--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 held or sought IT jobs.

In the past quarter, the IT unemployment rate stood at 2.5%, the lowest level since early 2001, when the jobless rate held at 2.3%. At the end of the first quarter of 2005, 3.7% of IT pros found themselves out of work.

chart: Highs and Lows -- The IT unemployment rate peaked in 2004 and has since fallen to near-record lows.The news isn't all positive. The number of Americans developing and managing software--an amalgamation of four job categories--declined from the previous high, no doubt affected in part by the hiring of foreign workers, whether here on H-1B visas or through offshore outsourcing. The overall software category includes computer programmers, scientists and analysts, software engineers, and database administrators.

Since late 2001, the number of computer and IS managers grew by 91,000, or 31%, to 373,000 last quarter, at a time when the overall IT workforce increased by only 7,000 people. "IT management occupations appear to thrive in a global economy and appear to be increasing at a very healthy rate," says Roy Lawson, a software developer and board member of the Programmers Guild, an IT workers' advocacy group. "Unfortunately for the overall IT occupation, management jobs are a small percentage of total IT jobs." IT managers made up 11% of the IT workforce last quarter, up from 8% in late 2001.

Not surprisingly, data shows a 20% decrease in the number of computer programmers--programming is perceived as a commodity skill that can be outsourced offshore--while the percentage of software engineers, a job usually recognized as requiring greater expertise, increased by 15% between fall 2001 and early 2006.

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