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Slowdown Forces Many to Wander for Work

Those who stayed in the region sent out an average of 85 applications and waited more than 13 months before getting a new job, according to the study performed by the North Texas Technology Council and the University of Texas at Arlington. More than half of the workers said their new jobs paid less than the ones they left and were in unrelated fields.

The Washington area, on the other hand, is second-best in the nation for tech job opportunities, according to the Dice Report, a tech jobs clearinghouse. New York ranks first. Job postings in the Washington region are up 60 percent this year, according to Dice.


"I just want to see my family happy. I want to see them satisfied. That's all I care about," says David Packman, playing with his sons Donovan, 9, and Kaz, 4. (Dudley M. Brooks -- The Washington Post)

_____Live Discussion_____
Tuesday, 11 a.m. ET: Washington Post staff writer Greg Schneider will be online to discuss this article.
_____$17/Hour Series_____
Permanent Job Proves An Elusive Dream (The Washington Post, Oct 11, 2004)
As Income Gap Widens, Uncertainty Spreads (The Washington Post, Sep 20, 2004)
_____Graphic_____
Information Technology Employment Overall, the IT workforce has declined since its 2000 peak. Computer programmers and electronics engineers have been especially vulnerable. Wage increases have also slowed.
About This Series

This is the third in a series of occasional articles about the changes roiling the middle of the American workforce -- the disappearance of many jobs that pay near the national average of $17 an hour, with such benefits as health care and pensions. Other stories in the series will address how the changes are affecting large and small businesses and will look at the prospects for new types of jobs to take the place of those lost. To read the stories published so far, go to www.washingtonpost.com/business. Reporter Greg Schneider will be online at 11 a.m. today to discuss this article.

_____  The Economy _____

Interactive Graphic: Economy Over History
Report: The U.S. Economy




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Still, more than a third of all positions posted on Dice are contract jobs, not permanent. And the region's high cost of living is unforgiving for anyone trying to piece together short-term work, said Corey Frankel of Falls Church, who has been plying the Washington area tech scene nearly 20 years. He has two young daughters, and while Frankel has bounced from job to job in recent years -- working on both mainframe computers and database management -- he can't bring himself to leave the area.

"I have children in elementary schools in the finest school system in the country, and I'm not about to give that up because somebody wants to toy with my life," he said.

Instead, Frankel has roamed among a variety of small contractors on short-term government computer jobs. In between, he has subsisted on everything from unemployment checks to selling cars.

The current economy "is turning good working people into gypsies. It's making them into migrant workers," he said.

The nationwide scope of the tech jobs problem is apparent on the Internet, which swarms with Web sites and chat boards dedicated to out-of-work techies. Web sites such as RescueAmericanJobs.org and ITPAA.org serve as job search and support groups, as vehicles for calling for political help or as simple outlets for rage.

At ITUnemployed.com, for instance, someone posted a long ode called "Elegy for a Profession."

"Hello, Corporate America. Do you know us? Do you remember? . . . We are the men and women who helped you build the 21st century," it begins. Lamenting the loss of jobs, it concludes: "We send out résumés by the ream, month after month, as savings and retirement money slowly dwindle . . . In desperation, we apply everywhere, to do anything, but to no avail. We are overqualified for anything else, and we are unable to work in the field we love."

Jobs Dry Up, Bills Pile Up

Packman's tech career was supposed to be an escape from dead-end jobs. Now, at the motel in York, he talks late into the night with Sabrina about what to do next, quietly so the sleeping boys don't wake up and realize how bad things are.


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