WASHINGTON U.S. engineering unemployment soared to a record in the second quarter of 2009, nearly doubling on a quarterly basis to 8.6 percent, the IEEE-USA said Tuesday (July 7), citing government figures.
The previous quarterly record for joblessness among U.S. electrical and electronic engineers was 7 percent, reached in October 2003.
"These new data suggest we've got a long way to go as the United States attempts to regain its economic footing," IEEE-USA President Gordon Day said in a statement.
Engineering unemployment reached 4.1 percent in the first quarter of this year, according to data compiled by the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
|EE unemployment previously peaked in 2003. (Source: Ron Hira)|
Others said the global recession is providing an opportunity for companies to cut their U.S. payrolls, especially professional workers like engineers, and ship those jobs to countries with lower labor costs.
"This recession is a clear opportunity for firms to layoff in the U.S. now that they have built up huge human resources in low-cost countries," said Ron Hira, an associate professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a vocal critic of offshoring.
"Firms are laying off in Boston before Bangalore. The firms can blame it on the recession, and since the government hasn't bothered trying to collect data on offshoring, we are left to speculate about what's really happening," Hira added.
Hira urged caution in drawing other conclusions about the government jobless data on electrical and electronics engineers, noting that specific occupational data generated by government collection methods can be "noisy."
"I'd want to wait at least one more quarter to draw conclusions about this [EE umployment] data point," Hira said.
A better measure of technology unemployment, he said, may come from larger groups like "engineering professionals" and "computer professionals." According to BLS, the 2Q jobless rate for the former jumped to 5.5 percent and 5.4 percent for the latter. These figures may be "more reliable since they represent much larger populations," Hira added.
The government also counted 29,000 EEs out of work in the second quarter, a jump of 16,000 over the previous quarter.
"Taken together, these data may suggest that engineers laid off last year and early this year are having trouble securing the new engineering jobs being created," Day said.