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Tech job cuts down from first quarter

But pace of cuts in 2005 still well ahead of rate in 2004, according to report from employment services firm.

In another sign of a possible turnaround in tech employment, a report released Thursday said job cuts announced by tech companies in the second quarter fell 33 percent from the first quarter.

But the study, from employment services firm Challenger Gray & Christmas, cautioned that the pace of tech-sector downsizing is still ahead of the rate a year ago.

Companies in the telecommunications, computer, electronics and e-commerce industries announced 39,720 job cuts last quarter, down from 59,537 job cuts in the first quarter of 2005, according to the report.

On the other hand, the second-quarter figure was 16 percent higher than in the same quarter a year ago. And the 99,257 tech job cuts announced through the first six months of 2005 are 56 percent higher than the number of cuts recorded in the first half of 2004, the firm said.

"The economy is growing and many sectors are adding workers at a steady pace, but the technology sector has been conspicuously absent from this job creation," Rick Cobb, executive vice president of Challenger Gray & Christmas, said in a statement. "The good news is that we had a significant drop in tech-sector job cuts last quarter, which could signal a return of better times. Telecommunications is doing particularly well as new wireless technology takes off and consumers update their equipment and services."

Over the past year or so, job market news has been uneven for technology professionals, who weathered hundreds of thousands of job cuts following the dot-com bust.

Computer workers face the threat of increased automation and the prospect of their jobs being shifted offshore. The average number of unemployed workers in nine high-tech categories fell by 64,000 last year but remained close to 150,000, according to the Labor Department.

On the other hand, techies' optimism about the job market improved in June from a low point in May, according to a study from staffing firm Hudson. From the beginning of the year to June 1, job postings on tech-focused Dice.com rose 26 percent to 69,957, with strong gains in eastern cities. And a study released earlier this year indicated that the U.S. tech industry may have turned a corner last year when it comes to employment woes.