Damn the Economy! IT Employment Rises to New Heights

Unemployment among business-technology professionals has fallen to a decade low as the size of the IT workforce has risen to a record level in 2007, according to CIO Insight analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Joblessness among American IT workers averaged 2.1 percent last year, down from 2.5 percent in 2006. That’s the lowest unemployment rate for IT pros since the government began using the current method to track employment in 2000, when IT joblessness stood at 2.2 percent.

In 2007, according to our analysis, 3,758,000 workers in the U.S. held IT jobs; another 79,000 people who consider themselves business-technology professionals were unemployed. IT employment grew 8.5 percent last year. By this calculation, IT managers and staffers represent nearly 2.6 percent of employed U.S. workers in 2007.

The low IT unemployment rate of 2.1 percent, which many economists considers full employment, bolsters an argument forwarded by many CIOs: it’s hard to find qualified IT professionals.

Of the eight IT occupations classified by the government–managers, computer scientists/systems analysts, computer programmers, computer software engineers, computer support specialists, database administrators, network/computer systems administrators and network systems/data communications analysts–only one saw a decline in the number of employed. That occupation, computer programmers, employed 526,000 people last year, a loss of 6.4 percent. As fewer companies develop custom systems combined with the increased use of offshoring for coding applications, the ranks of employed programmers in the U.S. has plunged by nearly 30 percent since the beginning of the decade. Yet, the need to fill the coding jobs that remain in U.S. offices continues to be strong, as reflected the relatively low 2.2 percent unemployment rate among computer programmers.

The vigor of the IT workforce comes at a time when growth in other occupations stagnate as the American economy slows. Overall unemployment in the U.S. last year averaged 4.6 percent, unchanged from 2006. In December, the overall unemployment rate rose to three-tenths of a percentage point to 5 percent; the government does not publicly breakdown individual occupations on a monthly basis. And, overall job growth in 2007 eked forward 1.1 percent, compared with the 8.5 percent gain within the IT ranks.

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