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US jobless rate climbs again in August

IT job stats lost in the murk

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The unemployment rate continues to edge up in the United States, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting that over 14.9 million people who want to work can't find it.

The unemployment rate is now at 9.7 per cent as of the end of August, the highest since 1983, and it is very likely that the number of unemployed will continue to grow through the remainder of 2009. If current trends persist, the US economy could start adding workers this December or January; but then again, it could reach a point where only 100,000 or so jobs are lost each month and the economy bumbles along, much as it did once the recession started in December 2007 in the United States.

According to the estimates made by the BLS, which are based on data extracted from employers and from surveys of American households, 216,000 jobs (not including farm labor) were culled from the payrolls in August. The BLS also this morning revised its figures for June and July, and now says the economy shed 463,000 jobs in June (up 20,000) and 276,000 in July (up 29,000) from what it thought a month ago. There is a good chance that the August numbers will be revised in a month as well.

Since recession kicked off in December 2007, a net 6.9 million non-farm workers have been removed from payrolls across the country. The BLS reckons a little over 131 million people are working right now in the US (again, not counting seasonal farm workers). You can see the full BLS report here (pdf).

The industries relating to the IT racket continue to shed jobs, just like the economy at large. Computer and electronics products manufacturers shed 9,200 jobs in August (according to the uncooked, rather than the seasonally adjusted, data from the BLS); these companies had 1.29 million people on the payroll, as best the BLS can figure.

Computer and peripheral equipment makers cut 1,300 jobs in August, down to 161,100; communications equipment makers cut 1,200 jobs, to 125,400; and semiconductor and electronic components makers removed 2,500 employees, to 369,800.

Telecommunications companies, which are bunched into a nebulous information industry that also includes all forms of media as well as data processing and hosting firms, cut 2,800 jobs, to 975,200 jobs. Those engaged in the data processing, hosting, and related services business actually added 500 jobs, to 254,900.

Another IT-related category, computer systems design and related services, added 12,600 jobs in July but lost 200 in August. The aggregate payroll in this category is quite large, at 1,466,200 total employees. Management and technical consulting firms also added 6,100 jobs in July, but shed 2,700 in July.

Since the BLS tracks jobs by industry rather than job title, the government, business managers, and workers actually have no idea what kinds of jobs are being impacted by the economic downturn, and they can't really tell what specific jobs they might train for to find work.

This is perfectly idiotic, and it also means we really can't see how IT departments across various industries and as a whole are being affected by the economic downturn and a recovery, should it happen. ®

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