If you want a job, build an iPad App

Tech spending is getting a lot of credit for the 5.7% jump in Gross Domestic Product for the fourth quarter, but this improvement isn’t showing up in IT hiring.

One of the more interesting bits of jobs data out this week was offered by the IEEE-USA, which said that while the unemployment rate for software engineers declined slightly from 4.7% to 4.1%, the total pool of employed software engineers fell from 970,000 to 952,000, nearly a 2% drop. That means that engineers are taking jobs in other fields, retiring, or leaving the workforce, said the IEEE.

Here's my theory on the missing engineers.

They have left the workforce to build iPhone, iTouch and iPad Apps and that's why they're not being counted in government stats. They are off the grid, freelancing out of coffeeshops and home offices.

Gigaom published a graphic this month showing how Apple's App economy generated some $250 million in revenues in December alone, of which 70% goes to developers.

How many jobs, how many first and second incomes, are being created by Apple's business model?

The solo workers don't show up easily in GPD data, but let's give our due to the old economy. Here’s what Stephen Stanley, chief economist at RBS Securities Inc. wrote in a research note today about the GDP increase:

The biggest and most important upside surprise was a 13.3% annualized jump in business spending on equipment and software. This was driven mainly by a sharp rise in tech outlays, consistent with much of the chatter from IT companies reporting Q4 earnings recently. We have long anticipated a substantial and accelerating rebound in business spending in 2010, and it appears to be arriving a little earlier than we expected (yesterday's durable goods report also bodes well for continued strength in the sector heading into this year).

The GDP improvement shows more hardware buying and that's because the hardware stays in the U.S. The improving tech demand is most obvious in India, where the big India IT firms are hiring by the thousands again, partly because they are banking on an upturn in the U.S.

Take Affiliated Computer Services Inc., which will complete its merger with Xerox early next month, is expanding overseas to cut the cost of delivering services in the U.S. On June, 2008, ACS had 65,000 employees, including approximately 45,000 employed domestically. By June 30, this year, the last available numbers, ACS had 74,000 employees, including 42,000 employed domestically, for a decline of 3,000 workers.

More than 90% of ACS business is in North America, said Ursula Burns, the Xerox CEO, in a conference call last week.

There is not a thing that is going to change this shift of jobs overseas. But for independent, nimble, creative and fearless people willing to work solo, even though their worthless health insurance companies won't cover their pre-existing conditions, there's opportunity.

The iPad is partly a device but it is mostly an economic development platform. It's an accessible means for a lot of independent people to create new value and that's the real genius of Apple's product. The only reason why the iPad matters at all is for its ability to expand the Apps market.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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