Cutting Through Some of the Confusion on IT Job Numbers


Earlier this month I wrote about a couple of recent job surveys that seemed to contain discrepancies about the number of IT jobs gained -- or lost -- over the past year.


Numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, which indicated the information industry lost 13,000 jobs in July and 44,000 jobs over the past 12 months, conflicted with earlier surveys from two industry trade groups, the National Association of Computer Consultant Businesses and AeA. Both of the latter surveys found the economy added more than than 90,000 IT jobs over the past year.


I cited some additional surveys, from Goldman Sachs & Co., Janco Associates and InformationWeek, that show IT executives scaling back on their future hiring plans but not really addressing the near past. So what was up, I wondered.


CIO Insight published an explanation that accounts for at least some of the difference. As is often the case with different takes on the same subject, the surveying organizations used somewhat different criteria. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics included categories such as broadcasting and publishing as IT jobs. While some of us in these sectors do report on IT issues, it's a bit of a stretch to call what we do an IT job. Still, that's how the BLS sees it, and that impacts the numbers. As CIO Insight points out, the data apparently also includes clerical and other non-IT jobs at tech employers like Microsoft and Oracle.


Household surveys, which focus on actual occupations rather than general industry sectors, are more accurate in determining unemployment numbers, says CIO Insight. And those have shown a steady increase in U.S. IT employment, culminating in an all-time high of nearly 4 million IT jobs earlier this summer.