IT employment down in 2001

Statistics Canada confirmed what many in the telecommunications and computer sector (CT) already sensed – the industry’s employment needs have been steadily declining over the past year.

In an article entitled High-tech Boom and Bust, StatCan found that the CT sector accounted for only four per cent of the total employment in Canada in 2001. CT companies employed an average of 608,000 people in the fourth quarter of 2001, down four per cent for the same period in 2000. From its peak in March of that year, the industry lost 61,000 jobs.

In communications equipment manufacturing, employment fell by 36 per cent during the same period.

Prior to last year, growth in the sector had been strong. Between 1996 and 2000, CT employment rose by 211,000 or 49 per cent. By October 2001, the employment figures began declining. According to the report, the non-CT sectors of the economy did post a modest net gain of one per cent or just over 100,000 jobs.

However, one technology expert offered different employment figures. “(In December 2001) information and communication technology professionals were growing at about eight times the rate of the total employment of the Canadian economy, and that factored in two rounds of massive layoffs,” said Gaylen Duncan, the Toronto-based president of the Information Technology Association of Canada.

He didn’t dispute the dismal state of equipment manufacturers such as Nortel, which have been victimized by the downturn, resulting in massive layoffs. But he remains optimistic that once the need for more bandwidth comes back, so will the demand for equipment companies.

“What we’re seeing is huge job growth in everything but manufacturing and in Canada that leads you right to switches and telcos. They’re flat if not down but the rest of the IT industry is up,” Duncan said.

Keith Parsonage, the director general of the ICT branch at Industry Canada in Ottawa said that the numbers, while declining, are not a concern because it was nearly impossible for the sector to keep up the growth it previously had. He said at one point the ICT industry grew by 74.5 per cent at a time when the rest of the Canadian economy grew much more slowly.

Approximately two-thirds of all CT workers in Canada are employed in the Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa-Gatineau regions. During the 1997-2000 boom, CT employment in these centres rose by 64 per cent.

Of all areas, the national capital region and Toronto were hit the hardest.

The article is available in the April issue of Perspectives on

Labour and Income at