It's little solace to Geetha Venkataswamy that layoffs in the tech sector have slowed in recent months. The Ashburn resident has been out of work since July 2001, only a year after her promising career in computer science began.

And a survey released yesterday seems to offer little comfort. The Information Technology Association of America reports that fewer technology professionals were hit with layoffs in recent months, but the number of new hires also fell, making job hunting as tough as ever for techies.

In the 12 months from October 2001 through September 2002, just under 1.2 million technology workers were hired in the United States, according to the association. About 2.1 million were hired in 2001, a year many considered dismal for technology professionals.

"It's slightly good news," said Harris N. Miller, president of the association. "Stabilization would be good at this point in time. . . . It seems to be an indication that the worst may be behind us. That may be the most positive sign, and the numbers were not totally positive."

The survey, based on telephone interviews conducted with 300 hiring managers from Oct. 8 to Oct. 29, found that 359,000 tech professionals were hired in the three months ended Sept. 30, while 211,000 were dismissed during the third quarter.

The U.S. technology workforce grew to 10.1 million by the end of September, a gain of 233,000 workers since January.

Almost all of the growth, however, is occurring outside the information technology industry; non-tech companies hired 12 times as many techies as IT firms did, the survey found.

"If you've been working for banks and other industries, there is good news here," Miller said.

"If you've been working in IT companies all your life, it's not very good news at all . . . they need to start looking outside the industry, not the occupation."

Deborah Mancini, owner of Mancini Technical Recruiting in Alexandria, agrees that the outlook for tech workers varies by industry, but she said some techies are yet to benefit from any rebound that may be underway.

"There are people who have been out [of work] since a little after 9/11, and it really doesn't have anything to do with them . . . it's just bad luck," Mancini said.

Venkataswamy, who graduated in May 2000 with a degree in computer science, is open to tech jobs in all industries and all locations.

Technology seemed like a stable career choice as an undergraduate, but the market started to sour not long after she graduated. Venkataswamy was laid off from her job after only 12 months as an IT consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

"I remember I went to a dinner with the PWC partners and remember them saying technology was the new medical field . . . that parents would want their kids to go into technology, not be doctors. It's kind of funny looking back," she said.

Venkataswamy does not regret majoring in computer science because she enjoyed the work.

But if she doesn't find a technology job in the next year or so, a career change will be in order -- to law, she said, or maybe medicine.