"As low-tech suppliers take on more complex work, they will necessarily develop their own capacity for manufacturing R&D," said Sorscher. "As part of the offshoring business model, U.S.-based manufacturers transfer manufacturing technology to foreign suppliers and often integrate the offshore manufacturing into the overall design process," he said.
Wedel has found new work. He has been employed for about a year as a quality engineer for a large eye care/pharma company.
Ask about outsourcing, Wedel said it has "affected just about anyone with a technical degree -- it's purely business getting its way with government. Lobbyists have bamboozled our politicians into thinking we have a shortage of qualified engineers and that we need to import more via the H-1B -- simply not true.
"For electrical engineers, unless you are in the actual design of circuits, then you're not in demand," said Wedel, arguing that much of the job loss in the field is due to the closing of fabrication facilities.
Source IEEE-USA based on analysis of U.S. labor data. Note: Methodology is slightly different for annual and quarterly data.
Electrical engineers "are the life blood of our industry, whether they are designing, manufacturing or selling our products," Darla Whitaker, senior vice president, worldwide Human Resources, for Texas Instruments, testified during a 2011 Congressional hearing. Whitaker urged Congress to do more to improve immigration.
Wedel's former industry, semiconductors, hasn't recovered at all as an employer. In 2001, there were more than 200,000 people working in the semi-conductor industry. That number was less than 100,000 by 2010, according to a recent Economic Policy Institute study on guest workers by Hal Salzman, a public policy professor at Rutgers; Daniel Kuehn, an economics doctoral candidate at American University; and Lindsay Lowell, director of Policy Studies at the Institute for the Study of International Migration, Georgetown University.
Their study argues that that the "United States has more than a sufficient supply of workers available to work in STEM occupations."
Overall employment among electrical engineers dropped from 385,000 in 2001 to 335,000 in 2012, according to an IEEE-USA analysis of U.S. labor data. In contrast, software developer jobs soared to 1.1 million from 745,000 in the same time period.
During the entire decade of the 1980s, unemployment for electrical engineers never rose above 2% -- even though the overall unemployment rate was at times as high as 10%, said Ron Hira, a public policy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology and researcher of tech immigration issues.