Electrical Engineers' Rate of Unemployment Rises

 
 
By Donald Sears  |  Posted 2009-07-10 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

With all the graduates in science and engineering, plus all the folks currently looking for work, it's a challenging time. There is the constant chatter from the big boys of tech for the need for more technicians and people with technical aptitudes.

But look at these numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on electrical engineers (from a USA Today article):

Numbers from the U.S. Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics issued Tuesday showed the unemployment rate for electrical engineers hit a record high, 8.6%, in the second quarter, more than doubling from 4.1% in the first quarter.

The rate for all engineers climbed to 5.5%, up from 3.9% in the first quarter. Those are still better than the nation's overall unemployment rate of 9.7%, but the world is also still minting thousands of new graduates.

Good point. The shedding of jobs along with new graduates makes it difficult to say with certainty that there aren't enough engineers and technologists to meet the demand now and in the future, especially with the number of older engineers scrambling for work. As the article points out, some are taking three to four years to find jobs.

And then, there is this (from the same article):

In 2007, amid a renewed push in Congress to get more taxpayer funding for science teachers -- and more student aid for science and engineering majors -- Teitelbaum [Michael Teitelbaum of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation] told lawmakers that no objective data have found overall shortages of scientists and engineers.

Such warnings, he said, are "simply the expressions of interests by interest groups and their lobbyists." He cited companies that employ scientists and engineers, universities, and even immigration lawyers.

Oh, and then there are the challenges of a global economy (once again, from the USA Today article):

Scan Bureau of Labor Statistics projections and you won't find words like "crisis" or even "shortfall."

In its most recent Occupational Outlook Handbook, BLS says engineering employment is, indeed, expected to grow 11% by 2016 -- a 1.3% average yearly increase typical for all occupations -- but that the number of engineering graduates "should be in rough balance with the number of job openings."

The number of engineering bachelor's degrees grew 10% from 2000 to 2005, according to the National Science Foundation, a 1.7% average yearly increase.

You won't find hand-wringing, but you find handbook analysts warning that off-shoring of engineering work "will likely dampen domestic employment growth to some degree."

Worldwide, BLS says, well-trained, often English-speaking engineers are "willing to work at much lower salaries than U.S. engineers."

This is a fact many are facing in science, engineering and technology careers as more and more domestic technology work moves overseas.

 
 
 
 
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