Unemployment rate for electrical engineers and computer scientists reaches all-time high in 2003

02/26/04

WASHINGTON (26 February 2004) The unemployment rate for U.S. electrical and electronics engineers (EEs) averaged a record 6.2 percent in 2003, a two percent increase over the previous year, according to data compiled by the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The previous high of 4.3 percent was set in 1994.

The 2003 rate is more than three times the level in 2001 (2.0 percent) and over four times the figure for 2000 (1.3). The average 2003 unemployment rate for all workers was 5.6 percent.

While recent EE unemployment has risen, the number of employed EEs has fallen. BLS reported 386,000 employed EEs in the second quarter last year vs. 349,000 in the fourth quarter, a decline of 37,000.

"The continuing high levels of engineering unemployment are not surprising considering the trend toward outsourcing of high-tech jobs overseas," IEEE-USA President John Steadman said. "This offshoring of high-paying jobs may look good on the bottom line of a quarterly financial report, but it's certainly not good for the skilled technical professional who can't find a job."

The 2003 jobless rate for computer scientists and systems analysts reached an all-time high of 5.2 percent, an increase of .2 percent over 2002 and four times as high as 1998's 1.3 percent. The rate also jumped .6 percent from the third to fourth quarters of 2003 to stand at 5.4 percent.

The quarterly EE jobless rate fell from 6.7 percent to 4.5 percent in the final quarter. The number of employed EEs, however, remained steady at 349,000. The discrepancy could be explained by discouraged EEs no longer counting as officially unemployed because they either found work in another field, or just stopped looking. BLS reports that the number of unemployed EEs dropped from 25,000 to 16,000 from the third to fourth quarters.

The quarterly unemployment rate for computer hardware engineers jumped dramatically from 6.9 to 9.0 percent, and averaged 7.0 for 2003. Computer software engineers saw their jobless rate fall slightly from 4.6 to 4.5 percent (5.2 for 2003); and computer programmers experienced a drop from 7.1 to 4.6 percent (6.4 for the year). The rate for aerospace engineers rose a percentage point to 5.0 percent, and finished at 4.8 percent for the year.

Comparisons to previous years are difficult because BLS revamped its occupational classifications and reporting conventions after 2002.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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