The March 2009 numbers just came out this morning from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and are probably best summed up as “more of the same, only worse.” Overall US unemployment jumped from 8.1% in February, up to 8.5% in March (a nearly 4.7% increase). And to make things still grimmer, here’s an interesting clip from the report’s first paragraph “Since the recession began in December 2007, 5.1 million jobs have been lost, with almost two-thirds (3.3) million of the decrease occurring in the last 5 months. In March, job losses were large and widespread across the major industry sectors.” In fact, the official job losses in March were tallied at 663,000, which is almost exactly one-fifth of that 3.3M number.
What about IT? Professional and Business services as a category declined by 133,000 (preliminary estimate) in March, and this is where IT is primarily reported. That’s about 1 in 5 of the jobs lost in March! Drilling down into Report B2, average weekly hours in the Information category for production and nonsupervisory workers declined by only 6 minutes (from 36.9 to 36.8 hours) so perhaps the direct impact on IT is not as dire as the complete Professional and Business services number suggests.
On the other hand, Report A-11, “Unemployed persons by industry and class of worker, not seasonally adjusted” shows that from March 2008 to March 2009 unemployment rates spiked from 4.8% a year ago, to 7.8% this year. That’s a whopping 38.5% jump for the category, so there’s obviously plenty of pain and suffering to go around in our sector, though it’s either on par or less than similar spikes in other sectors. As you’d expect construction(21.1%) and manufacturing (12.2%) are among the hardest hit, along with mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction (12.6%), Professional and business services (11.4%), Leisure and hospitality (11.6%), and Agriculture etc (19%).
I’m hoping this latest round of news doesn’t dampen the modest stock market rally that’s buoyed sentiments and outlooks over the past couple of weeks. But gosh, doesn’t this just confirm what we’re all hearing on the street, or experiencing first hand? All I can say is “Hang in there!”