Third Quarter IT Payrolls Swell by 40,000

IT Unemployment Down for Quarter but Higher Than Year Earlier
Third Quarter IT Payrolls Swell by 40,000
The pace of IT employment is picking up, with 40,000 more people employed in the United States in the past quarter than during the previous three months, according to an Information Security Media Group analysis of Labor Department data published Friday. Since the third quarter of 2009, American nonfarm employers have increased their IT payrolls by 58,000.

At the same time, the number of unemployed IT workers fell by 12,000 during the July-August-September quarter. Still, since the third quarter of 2009, the number of unemployed IT pros rose by 45,000. IT unemployment stood at an annualized 5.1 percent for the third quarter, down from 5.5 percent for the first and second quarters, but up from 4.2 percent a year earlier. The first and second quarters of 2010 saw the highest IT unemployment levels since early 2006, when IT joblessness hovered around 5.7 percent.

Though IT unemployment is near historic highs - and troubling for many in the profession, especially those out of work - it's significantly lower than the national unemployment rate, which stood at 8.7 percent for the quarter. The 8.7 percent rate is lower than the 9.6 percent number that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported. That's because those numbers are arrived at by using different methods.

The fact that the IT unemployment rate was higher last quarter than it was a year earlier isn't as troubling as it appears. It suggests that discouraged workers who dropped out of the workforce - and aren't counted among the unemployed - have reentered it seeking jobs in IT. That usually bumps up the unemployment rate since it could take weeks or months before the newly returned workers find jobs.

The IT workforce consists of those employed in the profession and the unemployed seeking jobs as information technology pros; it rose by 169,000 over the past year, including 28,000 the last quarter.

In the third quarter, IT employment stood at an annualized 3,899,000 workers with 211,000 IT professionals unemployed. The IT workforce totaled 4,110,000 for the quarter.

The government does not have special occupation designations for information security professionals; they're mostly grouped within the eight IT job titles: computer and information systems managers, computer scientists and systems analysts, computer programmers, computer software engineers, computer support specialists, database administrators, network and computer systems administrators and network systems and data communications analysts. Those eight job descriptions are among well over 400 occupation titles the Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks.

Each month, the bureau conducts two surveys. The one we used to produce our analysis for this report, the establishment survey, consists of a sample of 140,000 businesses and government agencies representing some 410,000 worksites or about one-third of all nonfarm payroll employees.

Government survey-takers also interview 400,000 residences each months as part of its household survey. The bureau uses results from the household survey to report the nation's unemployment rate on the first Friday of each month, which stood at 9.6 percent in September.

Economists at the bureau and elsewhere consider the survey sample size too small to be statistically reliable for individual occupations, including IT as a group. Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes employment and unemployment data on individual occupations quarterly, the bureau doesn't promote that fact; the government neither posts them on nor issues a press release touting the stats. They're available upon request, however.

To enhance reliability of our analysis, we aggregates a year's worth of data for each quarterly report. For example, to get the third quarter numbers reported here, we added together the published employment statistics from first three quarters of 2010 and the final quarter of 2009 and then divide by four. This process, in effect, quadruples the sample size and smoothes out some quarter-to-quarter fluctuations in the data that may occur. In effect, it's annualizing the quarterly employment numbers.

About the Author

Eric Chabrow

Eric Chabrow

Retired Executive Editor, GovInfoSecurity

Chabrow, who retired at the end of 2017, hosted and produced the semi-weekly podcast ISMG Security Report and oversaw ISMG's GovInfoSecurity and InfoRiskToday. He's a veteran multimedia journalist who has covered information technology, government and business.

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