IT Unemployment at 5-Year High

Jobless Rate Reaches 4.1%; 128K Exit IT Profession in Past Half Year
IT Unemployment at 5-Year High
Unemployment among information technology professionals, including those providing IT security, rose last quarter to an annualized 4.1 percent, the highest level in at least five years, but still significantly lower than the overall quarterly jobless rate of 9.3 percent, according to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data by the Information Security Media Group, publisher of GovInfoSecurity.com, BankInfoSecurity.com and CUInfoSecurity.com.

The annualized IT unemployment rate stood at 3.2 percent in the first quarter and 2.3 percent in the second quarter of 2008.

The bureau reported Thursday that the national unemployment rate for June was 9.5 percent. The government does not provide monthly figures for individual occupations.

The government also does not track IT security as one of its occupation categories, but does lump most information security specialists in a grouping called network and computer systems administrators. In that category, according to our analysis, the annualized unemployment rate leapt by 1.1 percentage points in the past quarter, to 4.4 percent from 3.3 percent.

All of the IT-related occupations experienced an increase in unemployment for the second quarter, meaning that IT professionals aren't exempt from the prolonged recession, the worst in generations. Still, because governments and businesses rely on IT to function, most organizations can ill afford to reduce their IT staffs as sharply as they can other jobs in their enterprises.

Except for a brief period following the dot-com bust earlier this decade, the IT unemployment rate consistently remains lower than the overall jobless numbers.

For the third consecutive quarter, the number of employed IT pros fell, to 3,844,000. IT employment peaked in the third quarter of last year at an annualized 4,035,000.

What's even more troubling is the number of IT pros who have left the profession as the recession intensified. The number of people in the United States who call themselves IT professionals - those employed and the unemployed seeking IT work - fell to 4,007,000, down from a peak of 4,135,000 in fourth quarter 2008. That means in six months, 128,000 people left the profession, a decline of 3 percent.

The bureau, part of the Labor Department, tracks well over 400 occupation titles, including eight involving information technology: computer and information systems managers, computer scientists and systems analysts, computer programmers, computer software engineers, computer support specialists, database administrators, network and computer systems administrators and network systems and data communications analysts. Each month, government survey-takers interview 400,000 households. And, using this survey, BLS reports the nation's unemployment rate on the first Friday of each month. (Because of the Independence Day holiday, June's figures were released last Thursday.)

Economists at the bureau and elsewhere consider the survey sample size too small to be statistically reliable for individual occupations, including IT as a group. Though BLS publishes employment and unemployment data on individual occupations quarterly, the bureau doesn't promote that fact; the government neither posts them on BLS.gov nor issues a press release touting the stats. They're available upon request, however. So, the figures reported here represent our analysis of the government data.

To enhance reliability, ISMG aggregates a year's worth of data for each quarterly report. For example, to get the second quarter numbers reported here, we added the published quarterly employment statistics from first and second quarters of 2009 and the third and fourth quarters of 2008 and then divide by four. This process, in effect, quadruples the sample size and smooths out some quarter-to-quarter fluctuations in the data that may occur. In effect, it's annualizing the quarterly employment numbers.

Also see,

Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the IT unemployment rate for the second quarter.


About the Author

Eric Chabrow

Eric Chabrow

Host & Producer, ISMG Security Report; Executive Editor, GovInfoSecurity & InfoRiskToday

Chabrow hosts and produces the semi-weekly podcast ISMG Security Report and oversees ISMG's GovInfoSecurity and InfoRiskToday. He's a veteran multimedia journalist who has covered information technology, government and business.




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