It’s the first Friday of February, so the unemployment numbers for January are out. These numbers are modest but encouraging and indicate that our slow recovery from recession remains slow but continues on an upward trend. This is of course both cause for relief because of the improvement in both overall unemployment (down from 8.5 to 8.2 percent) and jobs added (243,000 for January, a nice bump up from the 200K jobs added in December, 2011), and cause for frustration because the pace of recovery continues slowly if also surely.
The data in Table A-14 “Unemployed persons by industry…” helps us zero in on IT. But there, alas, the picture is both more interesting and somewhat grimmer as we get closer to home base for likely readers of this blog. It shows the number of unemployed in this sector relatively unchanged for the past year (228K in January 2011 versus 227K in January 2012). More troubling, it shows unemployment rates up by 0.6 percent during that same period (7.3% for January 2011 versus 7.9% for January 2012). This is troubling because it indicates that overall employment in the information sector has declined in the past year, because that’s the only way that the number of unemployed persons can stay roughly the same with an increased unemployment rate for that population (there’s a 0.44% negative difference between the unemployed count over the interval, but a 0.6% positive difference in the unemployment rate).
On a brighter note, the other sector that many IT workers occupy — professional and business services, home to those IT workers who contract or consult with organizations, rather than working full-time as employees for them–shows an 0.7 percent reduction in the employment rate, and an increase of 70,000 jobs over the past year. Could this be a situation where contractors and freelancers in IT may be doing better than rank-and-file permanent employees? Perhaps so!
At any rate, given the glacial rate of improvement in IT’s core sector, my long-running mantra of “Hunker down, stay put, keep an eye out for trouble” sadly remains as relevant today for IT professionals as it has been for the past three years and more. By now, that’s pretty much the status quo.