2011 brings fewer layoffs for U.S. high-tech workers

Here’s a rare bit of good news for the U.S. economy: Fewer high-tech workers are being laid off in 2011 compared to last year, according to a report compiled by outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The U.S. electronics, computers and telecommunications industries shed a total of 14,308 jobs in the first six months of 2011, down 60% from the 35,375 jobs cut during the same time period last year.

The states that have seen the most high-tech layoffs in 2011 are California, Colorado, Minnesota, Illinois, Washington and New York, all of which have seen between 1,000 and 1,900 high-tech workers lose their jobs this year.

Overall, U.S. employers are doing much less downsizing than in recent years. The total number of job cuts in the United States during the first half of 2011 was 245,806 — the lowest figure since 2000, the report said.

“The employment picture remains a bit cloudy. Continued slowness in the pace of job cuts is certainly promising. However, hiring is coming in spurts and is not quite robust enough to make a significant dent in unemployment,” said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

High-tech layoffs have been relatively flat all year, with an average of 2,400 jobs being cut each month. However, the total number of layoffs across all U.S. employers rose in May and June, prompting worries that the U.S. economy has hit another snag in its efforts to recover from the recent recession.

Challenger said that the next three or four months of employment data will be important indicators of whether the U.S. economic expansion has slowed down or just hit some bumps on the road to recovery.

While employees of high-tech firms are faring well so far this year, IT professionals employed in other sectors including government, retail, aerospace and financial services are not as immune to layoffs. For example, job cuts are up 241% in the aerospace industry, 18.5% in the financial services industry, and 28% in the industrial goods sector compared to the first six months of last year. Challenger said these layoffs are notable because these are bellwether industries that point to the overall health of the economy.

Most of the layoffs this year are due to companies cutting costs, closing operations or restructuring their businesses.

Economists are hoping that corporate downsizing efforts will be offset by hiring. So far this year, U.S. companies have announced plans to hire 198,336 workers, which is less than the 245,806 job cuts that also have been disclosed.

High-tech companies, however, are adding more employees than they are laying off. The computer, electronics and telecommunications industries have announced plans to hire 25,463 workers this year, compared to layoffs totaling 14,308.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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