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US companies added lots of jobs last month

IT firms do their share, mostly

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A snowy January put hiring in the United States on ice, but it looks like things thawed out a bit in February.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the arm of the US Department of Labor that counts the employed, the unemployed, and that little-known third category of people who are neither, said last Friday that the US economy added a net new 192,000 jobs in the non-farm sector during February. In the past 13 months, the economy has added 1.3 million net new jobs, the BLS says in its latest jobs report, which you can read here.

The problem is, that is not enough. The United States needs something in the order of 200,000 new jobs per month to just keep up with population growth, and then there is the problem of 13.7 million people still unemployed and the official 8.9 per cent unemployment rate. At this rate, it will take five years to get the unemployment rate down to the 4.5 per cent it was at before the Great Recession hit in December 2007. And none of these numbers cope with the number of people who have fallen out of the statistics because they have become discouraged and haven't looked for work not only in the past year (which the BLS tracks) but over the past several years (which it does not).

Manufacturers added 33,000 jobs in February, according to the BLS, and have added 195,000 jobs since hitting a bottom in December 2009. Durable goods manufacturers added 233,000 in this time, but others have slashed their payrolls, bringing the net down to 195,000 jobs. Construction jobs were down 22,000 in January, but were up 33,000 in February, with specialty trade contractors accounting for 28,000 of this. Some of this growth in the construction biz, by the way, is coming from data center retrofits as well as greenfield data center construction. The US may have a housing glut, but it doesn't have a glass housing glut at all. There is a lot of pent-up demand, and a friend of mine who does data center power systems installs for Siemens Power Systems has never been happier. Businesses engaged in professional and business services added 47,000 jobs last month, healthcare companies added another 34,000, and transportation and warehousing added 22,000. State and local governments stopped hemorrhaging jobs last month, but have shopped 377,000 jobs since September 2008 and it looks like another round of deep cuts is coming around on the guitar.

As I have complained many times, the BLS doesn't track jobs by title, but by industry, which is not very bright. You need both sets of data to see how industries and people and their careers are doing. But you can back into some industries to get a rough sense of how the IT vendor portion of the US economy is doing.

Computer and electronic product manufacturers, for instance, added 400 jobs according to the BLS, with a labor pool of nearly 1.12 million people. Within this sub-category of manufacturers, those making computer and peripheral equipment employed 169,900 people as February came to a close – up 2,500 people compared to January. But communications equipment makers cut 1,800 jobs, to 117,800 people. Semiconductor and electronic components makers added 700 people, to a pool of 378,300 workers.

In the information sector of the economy – which employs 2.7 million people and includes all kinds of publishing plus telecom and data processing and hosting – jobs went up a bit in aggregate. In the data processing and hosting sub-sector, companies cut 300 jobs, to 236,000 workers, while telco companies added 1,300, to 877,600 people.

In the professional and business services sector, which employs some 16.7 million workers in the States, companies engaged in computer systems design and related services added 6,900 employees, boosting the base of workers to 1.43 million. Management and technical consulting service companies, which often have a bit of an IT bent, added 10,100 workers, to just over 1 million employees in aggregate. ®

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