Electrical engineers see sharp uptick in Q1 jobless rate

The unemployment rate for people at the heart of many tech innovations -- electrical engineers -- rose sharply in the first quarter of this year for reasons that aren't clear.

The number of electrical engineering jobs declined by 40,000 in the first quarter, and the category's unemployment rate rose to 6.5%, according to an analysis of U.S. Labor Department data by the IEEE-USA.

In 2010 and 2011, the unemployment rate for electrical engineers held at 3.4%. In 2012, there were 335,000 electrical engineers in the workforce, said the IEEE-USA. That figure now stands at 295,000.

"The first-quarter unemployment spike is alarming," Keith Grzelak, the IEEE-USA's vice president of government relations, said in a statement.

The TechServe Alliance, which represents IT services firms, said the head count of the overall IT workforce reached 4.4 million in March, an increase of 14,800 from February. Demand for IT professionals is strong, "with shortages [of people with] many skill sets," said TechServe CEO Mark Roberts.

But that's not true for electrical engineers. And that could be a problem, because for a country to have wealth, you need engineers who can "make something out of nothing," said Victor Janulaitis, CEO of Janco Associates, an IT employment research firm.

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on Computerworld.com.

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