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Software engineering jobs decline -- slightly

But employment rate for computer scientists and systems analysts rises to 2005 levels

October 7, 2009 03:53 PM ET

Computerworld - The most recent employment data for software engineers is mixed, improving in some areas but declining overall.

While the overall third-quarter unemployment rate for computer professionals rose from to 6% from 5.4% in the second quarter, the jobless rate declined for electrical engineers and software engineers, according to a new analysis of government labor data compiled by the IEEE-USA.

The organization of technical professionals said that the unemployment rate for electrical engineers fell in the third quarter from 8.6% to 7.3%, possibly with the help of increasing investments in smart grid technologies. Unemployment among software engineers in the third quarter also fell, to 4.7% from 5%.

However, the jobless rate for computer scientists and systems analysts increased to 7.3% in the third quarter from 6.4% in the second quarter.

"If you look at the unemployment numbers in the last two quarters, the trends were all in the wrong direction," said Gordon Day, president of IEEE-USA. "Now we're seeing a mixture -- some are still in the wrong direction, but half of them are either flat or turning around. I'd like to think that portends improvement over the next couple of quarters."

Overall, the number of unemployed software engineers declined to 48,000 in the third quarter, from 52,000 in the second, its peak point during the current recession, according to IEEE-USA.

The number of unemployed computer scientists and systems analysts reached 59,000 in the third quarter, up from 49,000 in the previous quarter.

In 2001, there were 745,000 software engineers. In 2002, that number had fallen to 715,000 but then started to increase until the third quarter of 2008, when it reached 1.078 million; software engineer employment now stands at 970,000.

In 2001, there were 734,000 computer scientists and systems analysts, compared to 745,000 in the most recent quarter -- the same number reported in 2005. The peak employment year in this category was 837,000 in 2008.

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