Aging Tech Workers Still Suffering Through Unemployment

By Donald Sears  |  Posted 2010-02-08 Print this article Print

If you read all the headlines for studies about IT worker confidence and technology spending expectations like I do for this freelance writing gig, 2010 would seem like the year technology workers are on a full jobs rebound. Yet, when you get into the meat of those reports, there is usually an underlying thread of caution or qualification below the rosy headline.

You can't blame marketing and public relations departments on behalf of these research wings for trying to find positive news in a tough climate. We had so much negativity last year, who wants to read more depressing news?

The truth, however, is a bit murkier if you are out of work or have been for a while. Most career experts and economists tout technology jobs as some of the brightest for future growth. Read a Forbes list on the best jobs and best careers, and you will find technology jobs rank highly. Even the U.S. Department of Labor sees high growth opportunities in tech.

Looking at some of the other numbers recently put out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, is honestly sad news. Over 40 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for nearly seven months, and the average unemployed worker comes in over 30 weeks.

Many are still suffering through unemployment. The unemployment rate may have dropped for January to 9.7 percent from 10 percent, but for some technology workers, those up and down rate fluctuations are a news story with little resonance.

If you are an aging technology worker, the challenges are tough and fraught with life-changing decisions. Do I make a career change? Do I gain new skills? Do I go in more debt to receive new skills? What can I really afford?

Take a look at a few threads of a piece on long-term unemployment by USA Today:

[Chris] McKenzie, 40, has been out of work since he was laid off from a $60,000-a-year job at a small technology company last March. "The only jobs I have been offered won't even allow me to cover bills," he says. "You build a lifestyle around the job you think you're going to have forever." McKenzie, his wife and two boys don't go out much anymore. They think twice about visiting friends to watch football, which would mean spending money on gasoline, beer and snacks.

And this, from the same article:

Rob Phipps, 49, of Sandwich, Ill., thought he had braced himself for the worst. When he lost his job as a software engineer for a big telecommunications company, he figured it would take six to 12 months to find another job. That was 17 months ago. He gets up every morning and looks for work.

Phipps keeps busy by reading up on the latest technology, watching movies and playing Scrabble with his wife. "I've repainted most of the house," he says. "I've got two bathrooms to redo. I'm always hoping I don't have time to rip [a bathroom] apart because I get a job. ... You start climbing the walls. You've been solving problems for 25 years, and your mind is sharp. You want to get back to work."

My apologies for the depressing news, but despite the research with positive spin, it can be healthy to remind each other that we still have a long way to go here.

So you know, I'm currently enrolled in project management professional coursework. I know IT has been hit hard, but I believe strongly in this industry's ability to innovate, adapt and evolve--and I believe strongly in the ability of technology workers to adapt. I believe IT will be strong again, and that is not spin. I believe it.

Consider these posts in your job hunt:

    • IT Certifications Get a Renewed Focus for Unemployed

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