Tech jobs disappear at AIG -- and across the U.S.

Congress vents about AIG's bonus plan, but remains mum about the layoffs

As American International Group Inc. (AIG) paid out huge bonuses to executives, the company also laid off six IT workers, according to reports in the local media.

Let's face it, a layoff of six tech workers -- even at government bailout king AIG -- doesn't normally get noticed outside of small media outlets like the Lubbock, Texas, newspaper that reported the layoff story. Or to paraphrase what Humphrey Bogart's Rick Blaine told Ingrid Bergman's Ilsa Lund in Casablanca, "It doesn't take much to see that the problems of three [in this case, six] little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world."

But the AIG layoffs serve as a reminder that IT workers nationally continue to see their jobs tank, according to data from the National Association of Computer Consultant Businesses, an Alexandria, Va.-based group that analyzes U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

IT employment in the U.S. fell by 17,000 jobs in February (download PDF), or less than a half a percent. That's an improvement over December, which saw a decline of 56,000 jobs, or 1.4%, and January, with job cuts of 46,000, or 1.15%.

IT employment, which peaked last November at more than 4 million jobs, now stands at 3,938,800.

As grim as these numbers may seem, IT workers -- at least in some areas -- are doing better than most professions. Nationally, unemployment is at 8%, but the fourth-quarter unemployment rate for computer hardware engineers is 1.4% and computer software engineers 1.9%, according to the NACCB.

Nonetheless, the NACCB is warning that things could get worse for IT if the overall economic climate continues to deteriorate.

One indicator is the number of job postings on the tech job site Dice. In February, Dice said it had 57,000 job listings, down 35% from the year-ago period. A check today showed 54,000 job listings.

Everyone from President Barack Obama to members of Congress has been hyperventilating over the bonuses paid to AIG executives. AIG did not respond by press time to questions seeking the reasons for the IT cutbacks -- whether they were due to outsourcing, IT consolidation or simply cost-cutting.

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