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IT feels the pain as US loses 651,000 jobs in February

Previous months' figures revised, again

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The monthly jolt of bad news coming out of the US Department of Labor hit this morning, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting that employers cut 651,000 jobs in February. Those cuts, which do not include farm workers, pushed the unemployment rate in the United States up to 8.1 per cent from 7.6 per cent in January.

Much is being made in the general business press that this is the highest unemployment rate in the States since December 1983. That unemployment rate for February was a bit higher than expected - two-tenths of a per cent, to be precise - and no one is willing to guess when the jobletting is going to ease up, much less stop.

When it does ease up, people will start talking about the economy recovering again. If you drill down into the bureau's report, you will see that the job cuts in January were revised upwards to 655,000 jobs (it was reported to be 598,000 jobs in early February), and December 2008's cuts were revised as well, up to a staggering 681,000 from the already-revised 577,000 cuts. If you do the math, with all of the changes and updates, since the recession began in the US in December 2007, the country has shed more than 4.4 million jobs, with 2.6 million of the cuts coming in the past four months.

The job cuts are biting all industries, but some were being hit harder than others in February. The professional and business services sector shed 180,000 jobs, manufacturers let go 168,000 people, and the construction industry lost 104,000.

For the first time since last fall, when I began watching the monthly report for El Reg, the IT-related sectors of the economy are being hit by layoffs, which was to be expected given all the layoff announcements we have seen in the past several months. Computer and electronic component manufacturers lost 13,100 jobs, with computer and peripheral equipment makers losing 3,100 and communications equipment makers shedding 200.

Semiconductor and electronic component makers lost 6,600 jobs, and electronic instrument makers laid off 2,000. According to the BLS jobs report (pdf), telecommunications companies fired 7,300 people and companies in the data processing, hosting and related services sector fired 2,000 in February. Companies engaged in computer systems design and related services lost 300 jobs.

As I have pointed out, these statistics do not give a true representation of IT job cuts, since they aggregate jobs and layoffs by industry and IT jobs span all industries. While the IT vendor community in the United States is important, it is not necessarily any kind of indicator for what is happening in data centers and cubicles.

What the BLS really needs to do is count jobs and layoffs by job title as well as by industry, so we know what kinds of jobs are being lost. This helps people figure out what kinds of jobs to train for as they move around the economy and try to react to current conditions. ®

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