June, 2001, Vol. 124, No. 6
Information Technology workers in the new economy
Program Officer, National Academy of Sciences.
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Although the dot-com bubble has burst, demand continues to grow for skilled information technology (IT) professionals.1 This is because IT products and services—and the workers who provide them—are found throughout the economy. The largest group is employed in computer services firms, but large fractions also work in manufacturing, financial industries, government, and retail and wholesale trade. 2 High turnover, as well as growing demand, contributes to employers’ ongoing scramble to fill IT vacancies. At the same time, it is increasingly clear that IT plays a significant role in increasing national productivity and sustaining economic growth.3 Therefore, it is important to look for solutions to meeting the Nation’s need for IT and skilled IT professionals.
Some observers argue that the Bureau of Labor Statistics projection that the number of jobs for computer systems analysts and computer engineers and scientists would double between 1998 and 2008 is too low. 4 (According to BLS projections, computer programming jobs will grow at a more moderate pace, increasing by about 29 percent over the same 10-year period.) Those projections suggest IT jobs will grow slightly more than 7 percent per year over the decade, far more quickly than the 1.4-percent average across all jobs. Moreover, the ratio of annual job openings due to growth and net replacement needs is about twice that for all occupations. This indicates that the number of new domestic entrants to the occupation—an appropriate measure of minimum training requirements—is low relative to the rapidly growing number of available job openings.
1 For example, the number of people employed in computer and data processing services alone grew steadily over a recent 5-month period, from 1.96 million in October 2000 to just over 2 million people in March 2001. See The Employment Situation, USDL 01–57 (Bureau of Labor Statistics), Mar. 9, 2001, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/bls/newsrels.htm (visited March 2001). The increase of nearly 50,000 new jobs is greater than the job growth over the same 5 months in late 1999 and early 2000, when only 32,000 new jobs were added.
2 Richard Ellis and B. Lindsay Lowell, Core Occupations of the U.S. Information Technology Workforce, United Engineering Foundation, January 1999, on the Internet at http://www.uefoundation.org/report1.html (visited June 5, 2001).
3 See, for example, U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics & Statistics Administration, Digital Economy 2000 (Washington, DC, June 2000).
4 See "Occupational Employment Projections to 2008" on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/empmlr99.htm (visited March 2000).
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