The nation’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.6% in January to the lowest level in more than two years as companies added just 112,000 new jobs – fewer than expected but enough to keep alive hope for a turnaround in the struggling job market. The jobless rate fell 0.1% last month to the lowest level since October 2001, when it was 5.4%, the Labor Department said Friday. January’s rate matched the 5.6% posted in January 2002. Employers added new jobs last month at a pace not seen in three years. The last time payrolls expanded more than 112,000 was in December 2000, when companies added 124,000 positions.
After seeing average paychecks shrink in 2002, salaries for IT professionals inched up in 2003, according to a new report by Dice Inc., which surveyed 21,000 visitors to its online job recruitment site from January to December 2003. The average IT salary in 2003 reached $69,400, up about 2% from $67,900 in 2002. This boost is a reversal compared with the previous year, when Dice’s survey reported that average pay for IT pros fell in 2002 by about $500, to $67,900, from $68,400 in 2001. Looking ahead, Dice president and CEO Scot Melland says 72% of Dice’s employer clients plan to increase hiring during the first six months of this year. That’s almost a complete reversal from the 70% in 2002 who said they’d be hiring less in 2003.
Non-farm business productivity, or worker output per hour, increased at a 2.7% annual rate in Q4 2003 after an upwardly revised 9.5% pace in the previous quarter, the Labor Department said. The advance was the slowest since a 1.5% gain in the final quarter of 2002 and was lower than the 3.0% clip expected by analysts.
The outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., said post-holiday job cuts reached 117,556 in January surpassing the 100,000 threshold for the first time since last October. India’s economy is expected to grow by nearly 8% this fiscal year – an acceleration likely to be sustained in coming years, the finance minister said Tuesday.
San Francisco and the adjacent world-famous high-tech hub of Silicon Valley will add about 17,000 new jobs to local payrolls this year, followed by 33,000 new jobs in 2005, according to a forecast issued by the Association of Bay Area Governments. The region lost 62,000 jobs last year and shed 268,000 between the end of 2000 and the end of last year.
Health care costs were mentioned by 19% in the poll, up from 11% a year ago and 5% two years ago. Unemployment was mentioned by 14%, up slightly from 9% a year ago.
Silicon Valley lost jobs from Q2 of 2002 through Q2 of 2003 at only half the rate – 5% – of the year-earlier period.
Another estimate by Forester Research goes into more specifics. Forrester estimates that by 2015, some 3.3 million service-sector jobs will be shipped overseas or rendered obsolete by technology. Forester analyst John McCarthy says jobs that are most at risk require fewer skills, are automated or are highly portable. Those include computer programming and software engineer jobs, that have long been leaving the country. By 2015, 26% of those jobs will be gone, says McCarthy.