MANHASSET, N.Y. Engineers and high-tech professionals reeling from the industry's sluggish job market may have to wait until mid-2004 to see an improvement, a survey of economists revealed.
Economists blamed the lack of confidence in the economy and global tensions for what so far has been a jobless recovery.
Robert McGuckin, director of economic research at New York-based Conference Board, a non-profit business research organization, blamed the current flat job market on "all the uncertainty" related to the timing of a full-fledged recovery and geopolitical tensions with Iraq, North Korea and a possible terrorist strike in the United States.
In an interview, McGuckin dated the recession's trough as November 2001, noting that since then "we've actually been in recovery, although it's been slow [and] employment has been flat and slow to pick up," McGuckin said.
McGuckin and fellow economists believe the overall job market is going to remain flat until the end of this year. As hiring picks up, there will be an up tick in high-tech hiring, he said.
"We want to see a pick up in investment and high tech, but until the uncertainty is reduced, the [high tech] employment outlook will remain dim," he added.
What economists' can't forecast is what impact a war with Iraq or another terrorist attack here would have on the economy. They speculated that either could prolong a job-market recovery several months to a year.
"In a year, if we still have this Iraq situation, it could mean waiting until 2005," said one analyst.
Economists have predicted the U.S. unemployment rate will hover between 5-6 percent this year. That level isn't expected to drop to 5 percent until 2004.
If geopolitical uncertainties lessen by 2004, economists said the nation's gross domestic product growth could be stronger than the 2.4 percent growth posted for 2002 and above the 3.3 percent GDP growth forecast for 2003. That kind of growth should lead to an improving job picture, they added.