High-Tech Industry Added 91,400 Jobs in 2007

Fewer jobs were added in 2007 than 2006, but unemployment rates across many tech occupations remain very low, finds a new report. 

At a time when the high-tech industry is nervous about an anticipated downturn in consumer spending, new employment numbers stand to ease some tension.

The U.S. high-tech industry added jobs for a third year in a row, according to a report released April 2 by the AeA, a high-tech trade association. In 2007, 91,400 jobs were added, slightly less than the gains of 139,000 in 2006 but in line with the 87,400 added in 2005.

"The overall findings are that high-tech employment is up for the year, adding nearly 100,000 jobs. Though the growth itself is down slightly from 2006, the market is still extremely tight for those who are qualified. Companies having trouble finding qualified workers might be what is slowing down growth," said Matthew Kazmierczak, a Washington-based AeA analyst.

All but four "Cyberstates," the 50 states plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, added jobs in 2006, the most recent year that the state-by-state data was available. Texas (+13,700), Virginia (+9,800), New Jersey (+8,500) and New Mexico (+6,700) led the way, with Virginia leading the nation in concentration of tech workers, 91 per 1,000 in the private sector.

Delaware, Colorado (-900), Puerto Rico (-1,100) and Michigan (-1,500) fell behind in 2007, Colorado's second year on the decline.

"Michigan is having problems wrought by the downturn of the auto and engineering industry," said Kazmierczak. "Colorado is struggling with the consolidation of the telecom industry, and that some computer manufacturing left the state. Delaware lost jobs in areas that were traditionally growth areas, such as computer systems design, and research and development facilities. Puerto Rico bounced around a little and part of it is that they're very small. They only lost 300 jobs, but when you have 18,000, that hurts."

For the second year in a row, software services was the industry showing the strongest growth, adding 82,600 jobs in 2007, continuing a four-year growth run, followed by engineering and tech services, which added 45,800 jobs in 2007.

High-tech manufacturing, however, continued to lose ground, shedding 29,800 jobs in 2007. Seven of the nine tech manufacturing sectors lost jobs in 2007, with only the defense electronics and electromedical equipment sectors adding jobs.

The communications services also lost jobs in 2007, but at a slower pace than the year before, losing 7,200 compared to a loss of 16,900 in 2006.

Nevertheless, AeA's employment numbers paint a fairly upbeat picture of the high-tech job market, a sentiment echoed by experts in the space, who say they have yet to see a slowdown in hiring as a result of recession rumors.

"We measure wages every quarter and we noticed that wages peaked in October," Jim Lanzalotto, vice president of strategy and marketing at Yoh Services, a provider of talent and outsourcing services based in Philadelphia, told eWEEK. "They continue to grow at a year-over-year rate but the rate of increase was smaller there. The unemployment rate [in] certain IT and engineering roles is still 2 to 3 percent, very low, and well past full employment."

Lanzalotto added: "Right now this is a vertical, or industry-driven recession. If you're in [the] financial services space or housing, you'll feel a squeeze. But it hasn't spread yet to other IT areas."