Think Again: High-technology job security

Investing more in R&D and business reforms would move us ahead in areas we should dominate; we still have high-tech work to do.


Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering, CFE MediaIn a world without job guarantees, high technology looks pretty good. Of course, if you’re without a job, that’s of little comfort, but the U.S. high-tech industry added 30,200 jobs between January and June 2010, a 0.5% gain, according to a TechAmerica Foundation report based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The report looked at high-technology manufacturing, communications services, software services, and engineering and tech services.

“Though the tech industry was among the last to feel the effects of the economic downturn of 2008 – 2009, it was not immune to job loss and is only slowly showing signs of climbing out of it,” said Josh James, vice president, research and industry analysis, TechAmerica Foundation. “Tech employment as of June 2010 stood at 5.78 million, compared to 5.99 million in January 2009. So there is still a way to go before we’ve made up for lost jobs, and continued recovery is by no means certain. With job growth in three of the four tech sectors, we remain guardedly optimistic.”

The technology industry continued to add jobs until the last quarter 2008, when much of the rest of the private sector was into the recession. As one of the last industries to go into the recession, the technology industry is improving with rest of the economy, said TechAmerica president and CEO Phil Bond. “We have weathered the storm better than most. From its position embedded in every other industry, technology remains the best hope for driving robust recovery across the economy. America can only realize the full promise of an innovation recovery with smarter public policies focused on developing and attracting the best talent, investing in research and development, and growing and securing our information infrastructure.”

Over the most recent six months measured, U.S. high-tech manufacturing reversed the downward trend. Technology manufacturers added 9,100 net jobs in the first half of 2010, for a total of 1.24 million tech manufacturing jobs in June, a 0.7% gain. Two of the three high-tech services sectors added jobs in the first six months of 2010: software services (+14,200) and engineering and tech services (+29,700). Communications services, including Internet and telecom, shed 22,800 jobs from January to June of 2010.

From June 2009 through June 2010, tech lost 72,800 jobs, a 1.2% workforce decline, compared to the U.S. private sector loss of 334,000 jobs, a 0.3% decline.

To continue progress, focus should be on retooling, diversifying, and investing in R&D to promote innovation, said Douglas K. Woods, president AMT - The Association for Manufacturing Technology. “That is because we operate in a business and regulatory environment that thwarts our progress. If we don’t redirect our government policy and resources to focus on innovation and R&D, there will be more missed opportunities for American technological leadership and our citizens will ultimately suffer.” We still have high-tech work to do.

See last month’s Think Again: Engineering greater onshore efficiencies.

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