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What The Numbers Show About Tech Employment

Now that 65,000 H-1B visas have been granted--the total number allowed for a fiscal year--no new visas can be issued until this fall, and the controversy surrounding these visas, which let foreigners work in the United States, has resurfaced.
Now that 65,000 H-1B visas have been granted--the total number allowed for a fiscal year--no new visas can be issued until this fall, and the controversy surrounding these visas, which let foreigners work in the United States, has resurfaced. Talk today about foreign workers focuses on offshore outsourcing, but just a few years ago, it concentrated on those who came here under H-1B and other visa programs.

An analysis by InformationWeek of government data shows the number of foreign IT workers entering this country burgeoned during the boom in the late 1990s and early 2000s. More than one-quarter of foreign-born IT workers employed in the United States last year came into the country since 1996, with the plurality of them migrating here during the dot-com explosion years of 1998 and '99. Last year, more than one in 10 IT professionals working in the United States were noncitizens.

What else does the data show? Seventy-two percent of business-technology pros are men; 28% women. One-third are in their 30s. Those in their 40s represent 27% of the tech workforce; 20s, 22%; 50s, 14%; and 60-plus, 3%.

InformationWeek analyzed data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau as part of its monthly survey of 72,000 households to assess employment trends. We aggregated the Census Bureau's extrapolated data to get a monthly average of the total IT workforce.

Government statisticians caution that results are less reliable as the analysis of the data tunnels deeper into subcategories. For instance, the results calculating the number of workers representing the overall IT workforce--3.52 million people--would be more reliable than that of computer programmers, at an estimated 610,000. Still, in the years InformationWeek has used these numbers, anecdotal evidence has supported them.

Do you believe a career path in IT is as promising today as it was two years ago? Let us know at the address below.

Eric Chabrow
Editor At Large
[email protected]



Sooner Than Later
When did you enter the United States?

Half the foreign-born IT professionals in the United States in 2003 entered the country prior to 1993, suggesting that most of them became permanent residents before the Internet boom. The largest percentage entered the country in '98 and '99. About 190,000 foreign-born IT pros are natives of India, followed by China, 52,000; Taiwan, 32,000; Russia, 31,000; and the Philippines, 30,000.


From Shore To Shore
Where in the United States do you work?

Eight-nine percent of business-technology professionals are U.S. citizens, and 80% were born here. IT pros are scattered relatively evenly throughout the country, with slightly more living and working in the South than in other regions. The profession is an urban one, with 94% of tech workers living in or near cities versus 6% in rural communities.


Career Focus
What is your job category?

In 2003, the Census Bureau employed a new way to categorize IT professionals, replacing three groups—computer-systems analysts, computer programmers, and computer operators—used since the 1980s. The eight new categories provide greater

accuracy in describing specific IT jobs. However, it's impossible to identify employment trends because the methods of identifying IT jobs are so dissimilar.


Employment Seekers
Are you currently unemployed?

Unemployment for all business-technology workers in 2003 averaged 5.6%. For all American workers, unemployment stood at 6.0%. During the boom years of the late 1990s, when employers went begging for workers to fill jobs, the IT unemployment rate ran 3 or 4 percentage points below that of other job categories. Since the recession hit in 2001, IT unemployment generally paralleled overall joblessness, hovering at a few tenths of a percentage point below the overall rate.

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