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US economy sheds 20,000 jobs in January

IT-related companies cut staff

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Through the magic of a large number of Americans giving up on finding a job and removing themselves from the official calculations, the unemployment rate in the United States dropped by three-tenths of a per cent to 9.7 per cent, even as the economy shed 20,000 jobs in January.

This employment level is what the US Department of Labor, wanting to say something positive about the economy while not seeming partial, characterized as "essentially flat." While the construction, transportation, and warehousing sectors lost jobs, temporary help services and retailers actually added jobs in the quarter.

Construction companies shed 75,000 jobs last month, and companies engaged in transportation and warehousing let go of 19,000 employees. Manufacturers actually added 11,000 jobs, retailers added 42,000 jobs, healthcare providers added 15,000 jobs, and temporary help services added 52,000 jobs. Uncle Sam itself added 33,000 jobs, include 9,000 temporary (and yet full-time) workers needed to take the 2010 census.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which released its monthly jobs report for January this morning, calculates that there are 14.8 million people unemployed in the US, and that the number of long-term unemployed people has risen by 1.3 million, to 6.3 million, since the Great Recession began officially in December 2007. In total, the US economy has lost 8.4 million net jobs since the recession started.

The BLS doesn't track jobs by title, but rather by industry, so you can't really get a sense of what is happening in the IT sector from the monthly jobs report except in an oblique manner.

Last month, computer and electronic products makers cut 7,500 jobs against a labor pool of nearly 1.1 million workers. Within this group, computer and peripheral equipment makers added 1,000 jobs (to 160,500). Communication equipment manufacturers in the States held their workforce steady at 119,600, and semiconductor manufacturers cut 3,800 jobs, to 358,200.

Within the information sector of the economy, which includes telecommunication, television, publishing, movies, music recording, and data processing services, the telecommunications industry cut 4,900 jobs, to 955,400. Data processing and hosting service providers cut jobs, too: 4,100, to be precise, leaving 246,800 still with work and a paycheck.

The professional and business services sector has an IT component, computer systems design and related services, which has an astounding 1.43 million workers in the US, down 2,700 people from December 2009. Companies in the management and technical services business can have an IT aspect to their work, too, and there were 973,400 people employed in this area in January, down 30,500 from December. ®

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