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5.8% IT Unemployment Rivals Rate In Last Recession

There's no sign of recovery yet in the U.S. IT job market, with a 5.8% unemployment rate for IT professionals that rivals the worst from the recession earlier this decade, according to our analysis of the government's latest research.
There's no sign of recovery yet in the U.S. IT job market, with a 5.8% unemployment rate for IT professionals that rivals the worst from the recession earlier this decade, according to our analysis of the government's latest research.The Bureau of Labor Statistics issues quarterly employment estimates based on its Current Population Survey. Employment in the eight IT job categories the BLS tracks showed a loss of 10,000 jobs in the third quarter, leaving IT employment around 3.78 million. Compared with the third quarter of last year, the U.S. economy has lost about 275,000 IT jobs, or almost a 7% decline. The unemployment rate in IT is more than twice what it was one year ago, when it was 2.3%. An estimated 233,000 people described themselves as unemployed IT professionals in the BLS survey, as the IT unemployment rate approached the worst level of this decade, which was 6.2% in 2003. For management and professional jobs overall, unemployment hit 5.4% this quarter, with 2.9 million professional people out of work.

The one bright spot in IT employment last quarter was programmers, which rose 14% from the prior quarter. Programmer employment, a segment that's prone to big swings from quarter to quarter, is still down 9% from a year ago, worse than the IT segment as a whole. The other category that rose was computer scientists and systems analysts, up 3%. The biggest drops came in network/systems administrators (-20%) and computer support specialists (-5%). The remaining categories of IT managers, software engineers, database administrators, and network /data communication analysts changed 2% or less. While the double-digit moves for network/systems administrators and programmers are surprising, there's no consistent pattern of growth or decline recently in those segments (network admins was up 11% last quarter).

InformationWeek has analyzed the BLS data throughout this decade, and it's been a fair measure of the overall state of IT jobs. Here are the worst quarters for the IT unemployment rate this decade:

2003, Q1: 6.2% 2009, Q3: 5.8% 2002, Q2: 5.8% 2004, Q1: 5.7% 2003, Q3: 5.6% 2003, Q2: 5.6% 2009, Q2: 5.5%