Wednesday, April 13, 2005

So where do IT workers stand?

If on the whole, a vast portion of the workforce is "working more but earning less" (see last post) due to inflation rising faster than salaries, where do IT workers fit in this mix? We know that a polarization exists in the workforce; the top 5% of workers did not see their wages stagnate, but actually experienced gains. Are IT workers generally to be found at the top, or the bottom?

First of all is the thorny problem of defining just who is an IT worker, and thus how many IT workers there are. For the moment, consider a recent Information Week analysis which claimed
"IT employees and managers represent only about 2.5% of the total American workforce. That would equate to about 1,500 households for all IT professionals" or an estimated 3.38 million workers.

If we look to unemployment figures alone, according to Information Week, those estimated 3.38 million US IT workers appear to be doing better than other workers:

Unemployment among IT workers stood at an annualized rate of 3.7% for the four quarters ended March 31, according to an InformationWeek analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data issued late last week. A year earlier, IT unemployment hit a post-boom high of 5.5%. Last quarter's IT unemployment rate reached its lowest point since the final quarter of 2001, when it was 3.7%, too. [...]

The number of unemployed Americans looking for IT jobs last quarter fell to 131,000 from 149,000 from the previous quarter. [...]

In the mid- to late 1990s, propelled by year 2000 code remediation and investments in enterprise and Internet technologies, IT unemployment hovered between 2 and 3.4 percentage points lower than overall unemployment.

But remember, wage stagnation might easily be coupled with low unemployment numbers. We'll need more fragmentary evidence to proceed further.

What about looking at corporate profits in the IT sector? The Contra Costa Times reports that in the San Francisco Bay Area, a high-tech crucible, corporate profits recently hit a high point:

The 100 largest public companies in the nine-county Bay Area by revenues generated an average profit of $648 million in 2004, according to the Times annual survey of the region's corporations. That was 93 percent higher than the average profit for the region's 100 biggest public firms during 2003 [...]

Yet local representatives of capital still claim that the Bay Area is "unfriendly" to business: "The Bay Area is not business-friendly. As companies expand, they will probably hire people outside of the Bay Area, in other states or other parts of California," said a Bay Area financial manager quoted in the article.

What level of corporat profits would be required to equal a "friendly" climate, anyway?

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