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@Work, Carrie Johnson

For Techies, Some Hope Amid Gloom

By Carrie Johnson
Monday, May 6, 2002; Page E01

The number of U.S. technology workers plunged by nearly 530,000 in the past year, a drop of nearly 5 percent, according to a national study to be released today.

The Information Technology Association of America survey also lays out employment prospects for some of the nation's 10 million techies, providing numbers to match the uncertain mood among many job seekers.

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"It's been a game of musical job chairs," Harris Miller, ITAA president, said in an interview. "When the music stopped, several thousand people were left without jobs."

But there is some cause for optimism amid the pain.

The survey projects that employers will fill about 570,000 technology positions this year, based on interviews with 532 hiring managers. That assumes businesses soon will begin to purchase more computers, software and other cutting-edge products, stimulating firms to increase production and bring on more workers, a scenario that is still being debated.

Rob Schafer, a senior analyst at the Meta Group in Stamford, Conn., said his research firm predicts technology spending will be flat to stable for the remainder of the year.

Jeremy Grigg, a research director at Gartner Inc., predicts that technology spending will grow by 2 percent to 4 percent this year, and increase more rapidly in 2003.

A separate study released last week by Information Week magazine said that tech workers' pay had dipped by 11 percent, to $63,000, compared with a median compensation package of $71,000 last year. It's the first time in the five-year history of the study that employees with technology skills reported lower wages, the trade publication said. Information Week surveyed more than 10,000 people to come up with the results.

In many ways, these surveys pick up on the downbeat mood workers have experienced for months. Ironically, unemployment -- and employee uneasiness -- often rises even as the economy begins to regain its footing, because cautious firms are loath to make commitments in the form of full-time jobs.

In the Washington area, "contradictory crosswinds" are blowing, said Robert Templin, a senior fellow at the Morino Institute and former president of Virginia's Center for Innovative Technology.

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