Yesterday’s unemployment figures from the BLS and the most recent unemployment claims numbers tell a “good news/bad news” story about the job market. Actually it’s really more of a “bad news/good news” tale, because the bad news is that unemployment has hit a 26-year high of 8.9 percent (the last time we visited this spot on the charts was in 1983), while the good news is only that job loss claims have dropped from numbers in the 600,000-plus range to 539,000 for April. Because analysts had been expecting numbers as high as 620,000 for April, this is an interesting and possibly significant downward swing. Apparently, the US Government played a role in this dip: the hriing of temps to work for the US Census for 2010 was a factor in this downturn. For all the details check out the latest “Employment Situation Summary” from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As usual Table B-1: Employment on nonfarm payrolls by industry sector and selected industry detail sheds a little more light on recent trends in IT. The information category shows jobs down in April by a modest 17,000, with only a minimal loss of 800 jobs in the “Other information services” sub-category under that heading. Professional and business services also show relatively modest job losses in the areas most likely connected with IT, including a modest uptick of 1,600 jobs in the “Management and technical consulting services” sub-category.
It’s tempting to find cause for optimism in even the slightest reversal of free-fall in employment and economic numbers. But as Scott Simon said on NPR this morning (I’m paraphrasing): “We can’t really say things are improving, just that they’re not getting worse as quickly as they were before.” If we can take some cheer from a situation that’s stopped deteriorating as quickly as it has been, I think I’ll wait to break out the champagne and canapes for when the numbers actually start to appear on the positive side of the ledger in more than one or two small sub-categories. But even then, I find myself wondering if we’re not finally on the way back up?