U.S. Employment Healthier, but IT Jobs Still Scarce


March 2017, it so happens, is one of those occasional times when the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics releases jobs numbers for the month previous on the second (rather than the first) Friday of the month. That's today, and I'm pleased to report that those numbers look good.


Furthermore, as the trend graph available from National Public Radio shows, unemployment continues its relatively steep decline since its peak in the second half of 2009. With 235,000 jobs added in February, and an upwardly revised 238,000 jobs for January, unemployment edged down by a tenth of a percent to 4.7 percent.


This is not "killer good news," but it is still good enough news to cheer economists and laypeople alike. We still need to see those numbers edge up toward the "300,000 per month" realm in order to whittle away further at the remaining mass of the unemployed.


Total jobs added numbers that are north of 200,000, however, at least indicate that the economy can continue to absorb incoming workforce entrants with relative ease.


The outlook for the information sector (Table A-14), on the other hand, shows a somewhat contrarian streak. While many industry sectors have shown strong growth over the past year, such as health, professional and business services, government and the self-employed — and even, quite recently, construction — information has been stubbornly resisting this rising tide.


In fact, unemployment in information is up from 3.7 to 3.9 percent since March 2016, while the size of the information workforce has shrunk by 91,000 jobs (from 2.8 million in March 2016 to 2.7 million in March 2017).


Normally, information leads the way during times of economic growth, because information provides crucial infrastructure to support that growth. I'm not sure if it's because the move to the cloud lets in-house IT operations run ever leaner and meaner, or if management simply begrudges adding headcount to IT organizations these days.


Whatever the reason, however, our sector has acted like somebody put a brick on its head about three or four years ago. So while the economy has been in slow growth mode since the start of this decade, IT has been in "even slower growth mode" since 2013 or so.


Let's hope that the rising economic tide we're experience right now not only floats all boats equally, but also that it can shake that pesky brick from atop IT's head. Then we'll see some headcount growth as IT stretches to keep up with all the other industry sectors. Here's hoping!


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About the Author

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Tech Target, ComputerWorld and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at www.edtittel.com, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.