Job confidence down as IT layoff fears up

Monthly survey shows tech workers are feeling a bit shakier about the job market.

Technology workers' confidence in the job market fell in November, according to a study released Wednesday.

Staffing firm Hudson Global Resources said its monthly employment index for the information technology sector slipped to its lowest level since June, though it remained above the index for U.S. workers overall.

Tech workers grew more concerned about layoffs in November, according to the survey. The percentage of IT workers polled who expected their company to be laying off employees over the course of the next few months rose to 27 percent, up from 18.8 percent in October.

The report comes amid mixed signals about the job climate for technology professionals, who weathered massive job cuts earlier this decade. Online ads for tech jobs have increased, IT services companies have been hiring, and analysts are warning companies to take steps to retain prized workers as the job market tightens.

In addition, the unemployment rate for employees in computer and math occupations has dropped to an average of 4.5 percent for the first three quarters of this year from an average of 5.6 percent during the first three quarters of 2003, according to U.S. Department of Labor data.

But the average number of people employed in computer and math occupations during the first three quarters of this year slipped to about 3 million, down 7,000 from the same period in 2003. That, coupled with the lower unemployment rate, suggests that some techies left the field, possibly discouraged by grim job prospects. In addition, technology professionals face the threat of so-called offshoring, in which high-skilled work is sent to lower-wage countries.

Hudson said Wednesday that its "employment index" for the IT sector fell to 109.4 in November from 120.8 in October. The overall index dropped to 104.9 in November from 108.5 in October.

The employment index, calculated from survey questions covering work and personal-finance issues, is designed to measure U.S. workers' confidence in the employment market. It examines sectors such as IT, health care and manufacturing, and is based on surveys of about 9,000 U.S. workers. Hudson began the index roughly a year ago, assigning a base number of 100 for its December 2003 survey.

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