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IT workers getting back to work - sort of

June and July not as bad as all that

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The US Department of Labor kicked out its monthly jobs report, and there's some good news for once. First of all, private sector employers added 67,000 jobs last month, although the overall economy shed 54,000 jobs as the federal government winds down the 2010 census and lays off temporary workers hired to count heads.

The other good news is that job losses in June and July were not as bad as the Bureau of Labor Statistics had originally thought. The job cuts in June were revised to a loss of 175,000 workers, instead of the 221,000 cuts originally reported, and July's statistics were revised even more dramatically from 131,000 losses to a much less dramatic 54,000 losses. In other words, the private sector is in fact adding jobs at a faster clip through the summer than BLS expected.

Not to be a cynic, but this so-called economic data is all modeling based on samples rather than actual counting of workers and unemployed people, which is by no means beyond the capability of the US government. What the BLS ought to be doing is working with the Treasury Department to gather weekly and monthly jobs data as companies pay their payroll taxes, counting the number of people, by industry and job type, that actually got a blasted paycheck. It's a big data warehousing job, to be sure. But when the faith (or lack thereof) of an economy rides on economic data, it would be good to actually gather the data instead of doing a half-assed guesstimation that is revised, without consequences and often without comment, months later. By then, the political and economic damage is done. If President Obama's economic team had any brains or foresight, this would have been fixed as part of the $787bn stimulus plan that was signed in February 2009 shortly after Obama took office.

Such statistics might actually help people figure out what kinds of jobs they should be training for, but instead the Department of Labor is stuck in some 1930s mindset that inanely believes industry trumps job description. For instance, you might be able to tell that despite the downturn, there was steady demand for application programmers, database administrators, project managers, network architects, or IT managers. If that happened to be the case. And we can't know it if is because the BLS doesn't work with Treasury to gather the data.

So while the government was letting go of 114,000 census workers in August, a few more heads should roll in the Department of Labor and the Treasury Department.

According to the latest jobs report, which you can see here (pdf), there are still 14.9 million unemployed people in the United States, and the unemployment rate is 9.6 per cent, up a smidgen from last month after recalculations were done. The number of part time workers who cannot find full-time work edged up by 331,000 to 8.9 million, and another 2.4 million workers were "marginally attached to the labor force", as the BLS puts it, meaning they were looking for work but were not counted in the unemployment stats because they did not seek out a job in August.

State, local, and federal governments in the US continue to shed employees, cutting 121,000 from the payrolls in August. The bulk of that is the 114,000 census workers formerly employed by Uncle Sam. The federal government had 564,000 census workers on the payroll in May, and this has been regularly cut back to the point where there are only 82,000 people left banging on doors.

The healthcare industry continues to boom, with 28,000 jobs added in August. Mining companies added 8,000 jobs, and temporary help services added 17,000 workers. Manufacturers shed 27,000 jobs, and most of those were related to parts manufacturers in the auto industry. Construction companies increased their payrolls by 19,000, surprisingly, but 10,000 of those were workers who had been on strike.

The IT-related portions of the manufacturing industry all added workers in August and now show a steady rise over the past three months, not the choppiness that was originally in the data as El Reg has previously reported as each monthly jobs report comes out.

Across computer and electronics products makers, there are not just over 1.11 million employees, up 8,700 in August and up 13,800 since June according to the revisions. Within this group of device makers, computer and peripheral equipment makers had 161,200 workers in the US in August, up 1,300 from July; communications equipment makers had 122,100 people, up 1,000; and semiconductor and electronic component makers had 370,400 workers, up 2,300.

In the information sector, a hodge-podge of media, publishing, telecom and data processing services, the data processing, hosting and related services sub-industry accounted for 242,600 jobs in August, down 2,600. And telecommunications companies continue to shed workers to pay for big fat executive bonuses and to cut back on services because they all have what are effectively monopolies to try to cut costs. In August, telcos slashed another 2,800 jobs, cutting the payroll base back to 916,200. That's down from 967,000 a year ago.

If you are a systems designer, you are once again this month in demand. According to the BLS, there were 1.46 million people engaged in computer systems design and related services in August, up 4,600 workers from July and up 38,100 from a year ago. Employees at management and technical consulting firms are less in demand, down 1,800 workers to 990,800 - matching the employee count a year ago. ®

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