U.S. IT Jobs Are Growing, but How Much?


Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2007 was a good year for IT employment in the U.S.


Based on household surveys by the BLS, estimated employment in the IT sector reached 3.76 million in 2007, a gain of 292,000 jobs over 2006. That's more than twice the jobs added in 2005, which marked the biggest previous year-over-year increase in IT jobs this decade, reports InformationWeek.


Categories adding the most new IT jobs were: computer scientist and system analyst, with 110,000 jobs, and IT management, with 66,000 jobs. The only category to decline was programmer, which lost 37,000 jobs.


Somewhat similar results were seen in an American University economist's analysis of U.S. government data, which showed jobs in computer-related fields growing twice as fast as the average for all other occupations earlier this decade. According to a Chicago Tribune story about that study, software applications engineer jobs grew by about 26 percent between 2001 and 2006, while the number of computer programmers fell by 22 percent.


Computer Economics may have called it correctly with its early 2007 prediction that it would be the biggest year yet this decade for IT hiring. There seems little question that IT fared far better than most other sectors. According to the BLS, the overall economy added 1.3 million jobs in 2007, down from 2.3 million in 2006, reports ExtremeTech.


Oddly, the BLS data indicates a 2.1 percent unemployment rate for IT jobs in 2007, virtually identical to 2006's 2.2 percent unemployment rate. The InformationWeek article speculates that this lack of change in the face of the apparent rapid job growth could mean that IT pros who left the field earlier in the decade are returning to tech jobs and/or folks in other areas are switching to IT. I've blogged before about an increasingly blurry line between business and IT, which might lend credence to the latter theory.


So why are IT pros feeling less secure about their jobs? Surveys of IT pros by staffing company Spherion show a decline in confidence throughout 2007.


Maybe it's because, like Rochester Institute of Technology Professor Ron Hira (who was kind enough to share his thoughts about H-1B visas with me in May), they are skeptical about the BLS numbers. Hira finds it difficult to believe that the IT sector alone added 292,000 jobs, considering that a separate survey of employers by the BLS showed an increase of 322,000 in all professional and technical services jobs.


Or they could be reacting to the December spike in unemployment, which some observers say could mean the U.S. economy is heading into a recession.