Obama says stimulus helps keep IT jobs onshore

Stimulus didn't have much apparent impact on tech spending last year

The White House claim today that the U.S. has created or saved about 2 million jobs as a result of federal stimulus spending is not evident as far as IT is concerned -- not yet at least.

President Barack Obama talked about the impact of the stimulus today to mark the one-year anniversary since signing the Recovery Act, which set aside $787 billion in spending and tax cuts.

But despite the stimulus spending so far, employment of high-skilled, high-wage information technology professionals has shown little improvement. In January, IT employment increased by about 13,000 jobs, its best month in more than a year but still modest.

Layoffs have left a lot of ground to cover, and nearly all the major tech companies have cut their workforces. One bellwether company, IBM, is due to release its 2009 annual report this month with updated worldwide employment figures, and it may show a U.S. workforce decline of 115,000 to 105,000 for the year, according to testimony by a company official in November before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections.

An IBM spokesman said today that this U.S. workforce figure is accurate through October.

IBM employs about 400,000 globally. In 2007, IBM employed 121,000 in the U.S., but has increased at the same time its hiring in India and other overseas markets.

"You cannot have an economic recovery when good paying information technology jobs are slashed in the US, the workers terminated and the work shifted offshore," said Lee Conrad, national coordinator of the Alliance@IBM/CWA Local 1701, a union that has been trying to organize IBM workers.

"These are the jobs workers trained for when the manufacturing jobs were offshored," Conrad said. "Now these jobs are going to low cost countries. You also can not have an economic recovery when these workers see their jobs disappear and their wages vanish."

White House touts IT

Obama said today that "the jobs of the 21st century are in areas like clean energy and technology, advanced manufacturing, new infrastructure."

"That kind of economy requires us to consume less and produce more; to import less and export more. Instead of sending jobs overseas, we need to send more products overseas that are made by American workers and American business," Obama said.

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