The unemployment rate for US electrical and electronics engineers (EEs) averaged a record 6.2 percent in 2003, a two percent increase over the previous year, according to data compiled by the US Department of Labour’s Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS). The previous high of 4.3 percent was set in 1994.
The 2003 rate is said to be more than three times the level in 2001 (2.0 percent) and over four times the figure for 2000 (1.3). The average 2003 unemployment rate for all workers was 5.6 percent.
BLS reported 386,000 employed EEs in the second quarter last year against 349,000 in the fourth quarter, a decline of 37,000.
‘The continuing high levels of engineering unemployment are not surprising considering the trend toward outsourcing of high-tech jobs overseas,’ said IEEE-USA President John Steadman.
‘This offshoring of high-paying jobs may look good on the bottom line of a quarterly financial report, but it’s certainly not good for the skilled technical professional who can’t find a job,’ added Steadman.
The 2003 jobless rate for computer scientists and systems analysts reached an all-time high of 5.2 percent, an increase of 0.2 percent over 2002 and four times as high as 1998’s 1.3 percent. The rate also jumped 0.6 percent from the third to fourth quarters of 2003 to stand at 5.4 percent.
The quarterly EE jobless rate fell from 6.7 percent to 4.5 percent in the final quarter. The number of employed EEs, however, remained steady at 349,000. According to the BLS, the discrepancy could be explained by discouraged EEs no longer counting as officially unemployed because they either found work in another field. BLS reports that the number of unemployed EEs dropped from 25,000 to 16,000 from the third to fourth quarters.
The quarterly unemployment rate for computer hardware engineers jumped from 6.9 to 9.0 percent, and averaged 7.0 for 2003. Computer software engineers saw their jobless rate fall slightly from 4.6 to 4.5 percent (5.2 for 2003); and computer programmers experienced a drop from 7.1 to 4.6 percent (6.4 for the year). The rate for aerospace engineers rose a percentage point to 5.0 percent, and finished at 4.8 percent for the year.