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Another 36,000 US jobs lost in February

Mixed bag for the IT sub-sectors

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The magic of numbers continued in the United States today, as the Department of Labor said the workforce in America shrank by 36,000 jobs in February, and yet the unemployment rate held steady at 9.7 per cent.

In January, thanks to the denominator used in the unemployment rate calculation getting smaller as more Americans gave up on looking for a new job and therefore removed themselves from the math, the fact that the numerator in the calculation - the number of people looking for jobs but who can't find work - grew by 20,000, and yet the unemployment rate dropped by three-tenths of a per cent.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly jobs report (pdf) for February this morning, and says that as the month came to a close there were 14.9 million people unemployed in the country.

Since the beginning of the US recession, which officially started in December 2007 but which took another six months or so to turn into a galloping economic meltdown that spread globally as 2008 came to a close, 8.4 million people have lost their jobs. And it will take many years for new jobs to be recreated for them, even optimists admit.

For once, the manufacturing sector, which has a number of large IT suppliers in the US despite massive offshoring and outsourcing for the past two decades, held steady in February, according to the BLS. Component suppliers actually added jobs, but these were offset by cuts at automakers and chemical suppliers.

The construction industry continues to take a beating, with 64,000 jobs cut last month, and 1.9 million jobs gone since December 2007. Retailers also held steady as a group, but there was some churning in sub-categories, with material and garden supply stores adding 7,000 jobs and department stores adding 6,000, but food and beverage stores shedding 9,000 workers.

The healthcare and temporary help services industries continue to add jobs, and the US federal government added 15,000 temporary workers who are performing the 2010 census, but the Postal Service is slashing jobs, partially offsetting these gains.

As a group, computer and electronic product manufacturers had just under 1.1 million jobs in February, down 3,600 from the prior month using the raw, not seasonally adjusted, data coming out of the BLS. Within this group, those who make computers and peripheral equipment cut 1,100 jobs, down to 157,200, while those who make communications equipment added 800 jobs, to 120,100. Semiconductor and electronic component makers trimmed 300 from the payrolls, to 357,900.

Within the information sector of the economy, which is a mixed bag of publishing, movies, broadcasting, telecommunications, and data processing and hosting, the telcos shed 2,600 jobs, down to 951,100, while data processing and hosting companies added 2,900 jobs, to 248,900.

In the professional and business services sector, the IT-related segment is for companies that are involved in computer systems design and related services, and in this area there are nearly 1.44 million people employed, and in February the number of people employed in this area rose by 8,700.

Management consulting and technical services - which often has an IT component, given the importance of computing to the running of any business - as a group shed 2,100 jobs last month. ®

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