TechAmerica: 'Tech Jobs Grew, U.S. Needs More H1-B Visas'

By Donald Sears  |  Posted 2009-04-07 Print this article Print

Seems like anyone with an agenda slices and dices the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics for their own purposes. Separting the agenda from the facts gets murky sometimes.

Case in point, one very large and seemingly influential group--TechAmerica--has recently promoted that for the majority of 2008 technology jobs grew, especially in software. To be fair, they are also reporting on job losses in the last quarter of 2008.

The problem is that they are leading with job growth. While I'm not going to argue with the data, I will say that it's incredibly difficult to get anyone to explain what kinds of jobs we are talking about here other than to talk about categories. The data isn't collected or reported on by job titles or functions. That's my problem with it.

I'd like to be able to better dissect these numbers--numbers that smelll of industry promotion. I was able to get at the very least a document that shows the categories of technology that the Bureau uses. It's very broad, with a large manufacturing base. One thing that made me chuckle is that they have a category called "Paging Services." I imagine that's a small group.

Here are the highlights of TechAmerica's Cyberstates 2009 report that it is promoting on its Website:

  • U.S. high-tech employment totaled 5.9 million in 2008.
  • Tech employment was up in 2008 by 77,000 or by 1.3 percent.
  • High-tech manufacturing employment fell by 1.8 percent, losing 23,100 jobs between 2007 and 2008.
  • The semiconductor industry lost the most jobs of any manufacturing sector, 10,900 in 2008.
  • Six of the nine tech manufacturing sectors lost jobs in 2007. Only the communications equipment, defense electronics and electromedical equipment sectors added jobs.
  • The communications services sector continued to shed jobs in 2008, albeit at a faster pace, losing 12,700 compared to a loss of 7,200 in 2007.
  • The software services industry added 86,200 jobs in 2008, up for the fifth year in a row.
  • The engineering and tech services industry added 26,600 jobs in 2008, also up for the fifth year in a row, putting it at an all time high.
  • The unemployment rate for electrical engineers was 2.5 percent in 2008 and 2.7 percent for computer and math occupations.
  • The tech industry paid an annual average wage of $83,300 in 2007, 88 percent more than the average private sector wage of $44,400.

Who is TechAmerica? TechAmerica is a Washington, D.C.-based trade organization known to describe itself as being the amalgamation of the following groups: "TechAmerica was formed by the merger of AeA (formerly the American Electronics Association), the Cyber Security Industry Alliance (CSIA), the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) and the Government Electronics & Information Technology Association (GEIA)."

That's a whole lot of technology power in Washington. TechAmerica also has offices in Brussels and Bejiing.

What else makes me skeptical about TechAmerica? Because as a trade organization representing more than 1,500 member companies they advocate for the "need" for more H1-B visas as the way to help America when there is clear evidence of fraud, abuse and that a driving force behind the visa program is for cheaper foreign labor.

Here's what they say in a recent press release entitled "High Skilled Talent Remains Critical to America's Continued Innovation Leadership":

As the filing period for Fiscal Year 2010 H-1B visa applications opened this week, TechAmerica took the opportunity to remind policy makers of the critical importance of foreign-born, highly educated professionals to America's innovation future.

While it is predicted that American companies will file fewer H-1B visa applications as a result of the economic downturn, the demand for the talent that has historically contributed to America's economic growth and prosperity will remain, and it is almost certain that all 85,000 visas will be utilized before the start of or during the fiscal year that begins on October 1, 2009.

"Innovation is America's greatest resource, and sustaining that resource requires that law-abiding U.S. companies have access to the talent that drives technological discovery, economic growth and job creation here in America," said TechAmerica President Phil Bond. "Highly educated professionals from overseas have historically made great contributions to our country, and they will be a fundamental part of a technology-driven recovery."

That's a very controversial issue, and one that stirs the emotions of American workers, and it comes at a time when layoffs, pay cuts, benefit slashing and real economic suffering are occuring at a rising rate. I'm not a protectionist, but I also don't believe in getting snowed by "need" mythology.

Right now, at this point in time, are you sure that's what you should be promoting? |

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