Cloud computing jobs are multiplying, new data shows, prompting debate over whether the new positions are taking the place of other work or becoming a net positive to employment in general.

Data processing, hosting and related services added new 3,600 jobs in July, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s monthly report shows. And employment in computer systems design and related services is projected to grow 3.9 percent annually from 2010 to 2020, compared with 1.3 percent of all industries, according to BLS data. This gradual growth in the sector is projected to add 671,300 jobs by 2020.

“The conventional wisdom when cloud computing first emerged was that this would destroy jobs,” Anirban Basu, chief executive of Sage Policy Group, an analytics firm in Baltimore, said. “That’s true for ATMs and other technologies that obviously displace labor. . .It turns out that’s not true.”

A January report sponsored by Microsoft from the International Data Corporation showed more than 1.7 million jobs related to cloud computing were unfilled worldwide at the end of 2012.

“The issue is now actually not one of job destruction. Most researchers focused on this area are wondering whether there will be enough workers to fill those jobs,” Basu said.

Across industries, cost-saving associated with switching to cloud computing has “translated not into job loss, but more available resources to invest in other aspects of the business,” Basu said. “People came to realize that cloud computing has many applications other than storage, and that cloud computing will feed into other operations more broadly.”

But will these jobs be permanent? It’s unclear, Basu said.

“We go through these cycles in technology. The computer cycle is generally two to three years. . .This is going to be a very fast cycle, because the pace of innovation is so rapid. My guess is that people will be redesigning their cloud computing structure very frequently.”

And some of the jobs created in cloud computing could replace jobs related to older technology.

“For example, if a bank adopted cloud computing, it would result in employment growth for the cloud vendor, but there would likely be decreased employment in the bank’s own IT department,” Lauren Csorny, an economist in the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, wrote in an April BLS report.