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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

January 29, 2009 at 11:39 AM

Hiring firm: Tech layoffs to “remain heavy well into 2009”

More doom and gloom today, in a report from Chicago-based recruiting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

With demand for new technology deteriorating along with economic conditions, the pace of job cutting by tech-sector firms spiked 167 percent in the second half of 2008 and, if January is any indication, can be expected to remain heavy well into 2009.

Employers in the tech-sector industries of telecommunications, computer and electronics announced 186,955 job cuts in 2008, 74.2 percent more than the 107,295 job cuts recorded in 2007. The 2008 total is the highest since 2003, when 228,325 tech cuts were announced.

The firm also broke it down by sector:

The biggest surge in job cuts occurred among electronics firms, which experienced an 89.7 percent increase from 38,716 job-cut announcements in 2007 to 73,447 cuts last year. Job cuts by telecommunications companies increased 72.5 percent to 48,648 from 28,206 the previous year. Computer-industry job cuts were 61.3 percent higher in 2008.

The firm predicted there’s more to come in 2009, but it still won’t be as bad as the 2001 crash, when 695,581 tech layoffs accounted for 36 percent of all job cuts that year, the firm predicted.

“After the dot.com bust, technology companies in all disciplines were a lot more cautious and avoided the pitfalls of over-hiring that contributed to record downsizing in 2001 and 2002. Another reason that a repeat of 2001-style downsizing remains unlikely is that while demand for technology is falling, it still exists. Many companies are seeking new green technologies and computer and electronics firms are ramping up those areas of business,” Chief Executive John Challenger said in the release. “What technology workers are most likely to find in this job market is an increased number of contract or contingent opportunities, which are not ideal, by any means, but at least provide a chance to prove themselves and possibly turn the position into a permanent, full-time arrangement.”

Challenger continued with advice:

“Tech workers who remain in demand right now are those who have cross-discipline knowledge and experience. For example, an IT professional with accounting and finance skills will be better positioned than someone with only programming skills. The other key to surviving a downturn, and this is true in any industry or occupation, is having the ability to adapt to rapidly changing situations.”

Comments | More in | Topics: Tech work

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