While the job market has yet to fully recover, the latest report from TechAmerica offers a glimmer of hope in an industry that lost 143,000 jobs, or 2.4%, in the first half of last year, which was at the height of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Rather than shed jobs in the first half of this year, the industry added 30,200, an uptick of 0.5%.
All of the new jobs were added from April through June, which means the recovery, if real, is very recent, Josh James, VP of research for the TechAmerica Foundation said. "We're still very guardedly optimistic that it's going to continue," James told InformationWeek.
The TechAmerca study, which was based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, found that jobs were added in three of the four high-tech sectors, manufacturing, software services and engineering and tech services. The fourth sector, which includes Internet and telecom companies, shed 22,800 jobs in the first half of the year, with almost all of the job loss in the telecom area, James said.
Nevertheless, the added jobs could mark the beginning of a trend, if the global economy continues to improve. "It's going to map with what happens with the rest of the economy," James said of job growth in the tech industry. "If you see the entire economy struggle and dip into another recession, and that's a big if, then the tech industry is likely to trend with that."
Most economists believe a double-dip recession is unlikely, but say the United States and the rest of the world are in the midst of a painfully slow recovery in which the private sector is not expected to add many jobs for awhile. As a result, there are many more people looking for work then there are jobs. Nevertheless, the fact that the tech industry is adding jobs is good news. "I think the outlook is pretty positive," James said.
Looking at employment trends in the tech industry over the last 18 months provides insight on how far the industry has fallen in terms of jobs. From January 2009 through June 2010, high-tech companies eliminated 215,700 jobs overall or 3.6%.