There's much good news in the U.S. economy, but apparently not in consumer-electronics employment, according to the American Electronics Association (AEA) in Washington.
"The latest numbers show that from 1993 to 1999, high-tech employment in consumer electronics in the United States declined," said Michaela Platzer, vice president for research at AEA. Overall, jobs dropped 4 percent during the period, from 83,425 to 80,390, according to the AEA's most recent trends report. "Particularly hard hit are household audio and video," said Platzer. Jobs in that sector fell 10 percent between 1993 and 1999, she said.
Much of the decrease is due to jobs going offshore and to fallout from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which encouraged the establishment of Mexican factories that offer cheaper labor than U.S. facilities.
But the figures don't tell the full story, and the picture isn't quite as discouraging as it might appear at first glance. The numbers for consumer electronics don't include computers or office equipment like copiers and fax machines, and many of these products arguably can be considered personal electronics. While that segment has also seen a drop in employment, it's a marginal 1 percent, Platzer said.
The bright spot is undoubtedly communications, which saw a sharp increase in employment over the decade. In the telephone and telegraph apparatus sector, the number of employees jumped from 111,000 to nearly 120,000 between 1993 and 1999, an 8 percent rise.
And there's more good news. Though manufacturing jobs might be in a rut, design openings remain strong. "There's great demand and short supply," said Jim Wright, recruiting manager at Philips Semiconductors (Sunnyvale, Calif.), whose products go into everything from set-top boxes to automobile microcontrollers. "We've had growth on the semiconductor side for the last three years, and this year looks like it's going to be a good year," said Wright.
Philips has about 1,500 employees in Silicon Valley, split roughly 90:10 hardware to software. The company is looking for EEs with IC design experience in analog, digital or mixed-signal, as well as computer scientists and engineers. "We currently have hundreds of openings," Wright said.
Logitech, a computer-peripheral maker with offices in the San Francisco Bay Area, also has engineering vacancies. For example, the company is currently seeking a senior hardware systems engineer for its digital video engineering unit. Qualified candidates have a BSEE or the equivalent and 10 or more years of experience. "This would include10 years of digital and analog circuit design and includes five years of video and audio, five years of telecom and three years of project management," a company spokesman said.
"Further, a strong PC and software background is highly desirable. Specifically, digital video systems experience must include digital imaging, analog and digital design, audio, RF, USB, Windows, CCD and CMOS sensors, color processing, scaling and compression, optics, ASICs, Verilog, and modeling and simulation."
Logitech is also seeking senior ASIC and electrical engineers for its Internet video camera team. Applicants should have a BSEE (MSEE "highly preferred") and five-plus years in ASIC design. "Verilog, C++ a must. Assembly, Perl a plus."