Software employment grows 45% in 10 years, as angst in engineering grows

One unemployed electrical engineer, whose wife challenged President Obama on H-1Bs, is back at work

By Patrick Thibodeau, Sharon Machlis, Computerworld |  Government

Source IEEE-USA based on analysis of U.S. labor data. Note: Methodology is slightly different for annual and quarterly data.

"The performance over the recent decades calls into question whether it's worth investing in such a career," said Hira. "Workers should expect to be laid off, and for substantial periods of time," he said. "The professions are much more risky than they were in the past, yet the rewards haven't shown up in wage increases to balance out that increased risk."

Hira sees decreasing demand for workers as a key problem.

Over the last decade, IT employment has shot up and down, and the only tech occupation that appears to have recovered to full employment is software developer, said Daniel Costa, an immigration policy analyst at the Economic Policy Institute.

Other tech occupations (listed in the accompanying chart), "have not even rebounded to what they were right before the Great Recession started," he said.

While it's great to see software developers getting back to full employment, said Costa, data appears to show that "the tech labor market is still too loose to suggest it is lacking in tech workers," he said.

Concerning the growth in software developers, researchers generally agree that it reflects an economy that has become much more software focused. The debate now may be about whether such a shift is really a bad thing if other areas -- engineering in particular -- stagnates or falls.

Neil Ruiz, a senior policy analyst at Brookings Institution, sees the rise of software and professional services in concert with a more software-focused economy. The decline in manufacturing represents the overseas and near-shore shift in manufacturing. "It does not have to do with decline of R&D/innovation in the U.S.," he said.

Source: IEEE-USA based on analysis of U.S. labor data.The 6.6% unemployment rate for all workers is lower than the national rate of 7.6%. The lower number only counts experienced people who were previously employed, and does not include people just out of school or returning to the workforce after an extended absence. Overall methodology is slightly different for annual and quarterly data.

Zoltan Acs, a professor and director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Public Policy at George Mason University, argues that software development is innovation. Citing the app development work, "are these not innovations? I would be more upset if both trends (software development and electrical engineering) were down."

But Robert Atkinson, president of The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, sees the decline in electrical engineering as "a clear reflection of the U.S. losing the race for global innovation advantage in manufacturing."


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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