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US census inflates latest employment numbers

Computer makers add, service providers cut jobs

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

The good news is that employment in the US is up. The bad news is that most of the rise is due to temporary government head-counters.

Barack Obama doesn't have a lot to be thankful for since moving into the White House a year and a half ago, what with the economic meltdown, the mess of healthcare reform, and now the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico. But 2010 is the year a census of the population has to be taken, and that means hiring enough full-time — though temporary — workers to make it feel like the Obama stimulus package is having the desired effect on the US economy.

The Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics put out its monthly jobs report Friday, which you can see here, and the payrolls at companies and government agencies (excluding farm workers, who are counted separately) swelled by 431,000 people in May. But 411,000 of them were temporary employees hired in May by Uncle Sam to do the body count and get Americans to fill out some modest paperwork. (All told, 564,000 people have been added to the federal government's payroll to take the census.)

The unemployment rate ticked down a tiny bit, to 9.7 per cent, a rate that prevailed in the first three months of the year. There are now 15 million people who are unemployed and looking for work in the States, with 6.8 million being out of work for more than 27 weeks. There are another 8.8 million people who are working part-time because they can't get full-time work, but this number fell by 343,000 in May. There are another 2.2 million people who are "marginally attached" to the labor force, meaning they looked for a job in the past year, but gave up looking recently.

The BLS says that manufacturers added 29,000 jobs, and the IT portion of the American manufacturing base did its part. Computer and electronic products manufacturers had just under 1.1 million workers, adding 4,500. Within this group, computer and peripheral equipment makers added 1,600 jobs and communications equipment makers added 1,800. Semiconductor companies, which are also doing better these days, added 1,000 jobs in May, according to the BLS.

Telecommunications companies continue to shed jobs, with the labor pool at 927,700 workers, down 1,700 in May and 49,200 since May 2009. Data processing and hosting companies handed out 2,500 pink slips last month, bringing the aggregate payroll down to 247,900.

In the services sector, companies in the computer systems design and related services area employed 4,000 fewer people at the end of May than they did at the end of April, with a total employee base approaching 1.44 million people. Management and technical consulting services firms actually added people - 1,200 to be precise - to 977,600.

As El Reg usually points out when going over the jobs report from the BLS, it would be exceedingly useful to have jobs counted up by title, not by industry. When planning and navigating a career it would be great to know how many programmers, system administrators, IT managers, project managers, and so forth an economy doesn't need as economic conditions head south - and needs when the economy strengthens. ®

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