IT Jobs, Morale Still Falling, Says Study

As jobs continue to evaporate, low morale among IT workers is increasingly threatening productivity, says study.

Enterprises in the U.S. are continuing to shed IT jobs and, as they do, burnout among those left is beginning to mount, according to a pair of recently-released studies.

Updated figures from the AeA show that the U.S. high-tech industry lost more than half a million jobs over the past two years—a 10 percent shaving that brought the total number of IT jobs down to 5.1 million as of December 2002, from 5.7 million in January 2001.

The American Electronics Association, a high-tech trade association, reported recently that more than a quarter of a million jobs—236,000 positions—were lost in 2002 alone. Monthly employment data revealed that IT employment fell every month last year.

Employment also dropped in high-tech manufacturing and communications services over the past two years, with those industries shedding 415,000 and 135,000 jobs, respectively. Those figures represent declines of 20 percent and 9 percent respectively. Only one sector of high-tech manufacturing, electro-medical equipment manufacturing, grew, adding 500 jobs over the past two years.

Figures for the overall segment mean that high-tech manufacturing, in past years the largest manufacturing sector in the United States, has been pushed out of the No. 1 spot by food products and transportation equipment manufacturing.

As jobs continue to evaporate in the post-dot-com era, low morale among IT workers is increasingly threatening productivity, according to a separate study by research and consulting firm Meta Group, Inc., of Stamford, Conn. According to Metas 2003 IT Staffing and Compensation Guide, 71 percent of IT managers surveyed indicated that IT employee burnout is currently a serious issue in their organizations.

The study said that, while budget constraints currently restrict many organizations from using increased compensation to counter morale problems among IT workers, 55 percent of managers have begun implementing skill development programs. The study also found that more organizations are taking steps to assess the degree of employee dissatisfaction. Eighty-four percent, for example, are performing employee surveys.

Despite low morale and continued job cuts, the AEA survey found a silver lining in the tech employment picture. The software services industry added 5,300 jobs between October 2002 and December 2002, somewhat balancing the fact that the industry also lost 9,000 jobs over the past two years. That industry includes companies that produce prepackaged software, computer integrated systems design and information retrieval services.

Employment was down by 1,700 in data processing and information services and by 12,900 in rental, maintenance and other computer services over the past two years.

According to the AeAs report, entitled "Tech Employment Update," the last six months show no signs of economic recovery, with the IT industry losing 123,000 jobs during that time period.

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