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Published: 10/15/2010

High-tech companies are hesitant to hire

NEW YORK TIMES

NEW YORK - For years, the technology sector has been considered the most dynamic, promising, and globally envied industry in the United States. It escaped the recession relatively unscathed, and profits this year have been soaring.

But as the nation struggles to put people back to work, even high-tech companies have been slow to hire. The nation's unemployment rate is 9.6 percent.

The situation has prompted economists to ask, "If high-tech isn't hiring, who will?"

"We are talking about people with very particular, advanced skills out there who are at this point just not needed anymore," said Bart van Ark, chief economist at the Conference Board, a business and economic research organization.

Government reports show job growth in computer systems design and Internet publishing has been slow the past year. Employment in data processing and software publishing has fallen. And computer scientists, systems analysts, and computer programmers all had jobless rates of around 6 percent in the second quarter. Although that might sound good compared to manufacturing, it is significantly higher than joblessness in other white-collar sectors.

The chief hurdles to more robust hiring appear to be increased automation and the addition of highly skilled labor overseas. The result is not enough U.S. workers with cutting-edge skills coveted by tech firms and too many people with abilities that can be duplicated offshore at lower cost.

"I'm sending out lots and lots and lots of applications, to everywhere within a 50-mile radius," said Rosamaria Carbonell Mann, 49, a software engineer who lost her job when her employer closed in Corvallis, Ore., and sent the work to China.

Corvallis was a hotbed for tech start-ups. But Ms. Mann said that with layoffs from other tech firms in the area, the city has a glut of people like her: unemployed engineers with multiple degrees.



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