The unemployment rate for electrical engineers shot up to an unprecedented 7 percent in the first quarter of 2003, up from 3.9 in the fourth quarter of 2002, according to the U.S. Department of Labors Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate stands a full percentage point over the quarterly figure for all workers.
The BLS report, which was highlighted in a press release issued by the IEEE this week, also showed that the unemployment rate is 7.5 percent for computer software engineers and 6.5 percent for computer hardware engineers. The rate for computer programmers was 6.7 percent.
One bright spot was the employment picture for technology workers was that with the unemployment rate for computer scientists—including systems analysts—dropped from 5.1 percent to 4.9 percent.
The total number of unemployed technology workers in those job categories is now 172,000 individuals, with 62,000 unemployed computer software engineers forming the bulk of that group.
Relating to the grim figures, the professional group IEEE-USA issued a statement calling for a rollback of the H-1B visa quota to its historical level of 65,000, down from its current level of 195,000. The group also voiced concern over potential misuse of the L-1 intra-company visa transfer program, which brought 329,000 workers to the United States in 2001.
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