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IT Jobs Stabilize; Tech Unemployment Rate 5.5%

The job picture shows IT jobs suffering along with the rest of the economy, but the hemorrhaging appears to have stopped in 2Q.

The hemorrhaging of IT jobs stopped in the second quarter, as the IT sector added about 44,000 jobs amid a moribund white-collar job market, the latest government surveys show. However, the IT unemployment rate, at 5.5%, remains at its worst mark in five years.

The economy employs about 8% fewer IT professionals than one year ago, a 343,000-job decline, with just under 3.8 million employed today. The analysis is based on Bureau of Labor Statistics household surveys, in which people classify themselves into job types. The BLS recognizes eight IT job categories.

The IT unemployment rate continued to rise, reaching 5.5%, even as the sector added jobs because more people entered the IT workforce, which includes both the employed and the unemployed.

The IT workforce is just over 4 million, including 221,000 unemployed. For management and professional occupations, the unemployment rate is 4.4%. For the economy overall, unemployment rose to 9.5% last month.

IT employment had held up well for the first half of 2008 as the recession began, holding above 4 million jobs, but then starting losing jobs in the third quarter of last year before sinking 6% in the fourth quarter.

The job segments with the biggest second quarter declines compared with a year ago are the two largest IT job segments, computer scientists and system analysts (down 17% from a year ago), and software engineers (down 12%). Programmer jobs are down 5%, and IT managers down 3%.

Broadly, the employment picture suggests IT jobs are suffering along with the rest of the economy, but there doesn't appear to be the kind of fundamental restructuring that happened in the last recession, when a number of factors including the growth of offshore outsourcing led to the U.S. losing a quarter of programmer jobs.

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