The Washington area's technology companies eliminated thousands of jobs in 2001 and 2002 but since have done enough hiring to make up for the cuts. There is a big exception: The local telecommunications sector is still bleeding jobs.

In the 12 months ended in October, local telecom companies employed 2,000 fewer people than a year earlier, a 6.2 percent decrease, according to preliminary figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since October 2000, the sector has shed 18,300 jobs, a 38 percent decrease. That comes as most sectors in the strong area economy are adding jobs. For example, companies in computer system design and related services employ 19,800 more people than they did five years ago, a 17 percent increase.

Why the disparity? Part of it may have to do with the fortunes of individual companies. Many alternative providers of local telephone service that sprung up in the late 1990s are now kaput. Not many new companies are arising to replace them, or at least not many that have hundreds of employees. Local cell phone giant Nextel Communications Inc. has merged with Sprint Corp., and local telecom company MCI Inc., formerly WorldCom, is merging with Verizon Communications Inc. and is eliminating jobs.

The lack of telecom jobs may be more fundamental. People are using more Internet, phone and other telecom services than ever. But firms have become more efficient at providing them, requiring fewer employees.

-- Neil Irwin