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Culture

Tech services jobs up in March

But computer manufacturing jobs slide, according to U.S. Labor Department report.

The United States economy added technology services jobs in March but lost computer manufacturing positions, according to a U.S. Department of Labor report released Friday.

The number of payroll jobs in computer systems design and related services rose by 900 from February to just over 1.17 million in March, the Labor Department said. Employment in computer and electronic products manufacturing fell by 700 to nearly 1.33 million in the same period.

Total nonfarm payroll employment in the U.S. rose by a lower-than expected 110,000 in March to 132.9 million, and the unemployment rate slid from 5.4 percent in February to 5.2 percent in March. In the past, roughly 150,000 new payroll jobs per month have been considered necessary to keep up with the growth of the labor force in the United States, but in March, the labor force grew by just 25,000. The number of people age 16 and older not in the labor force, including "discouraged workers" who stopped looking for a job, rose by 170,000 in March.

When it comes to tech jobs, the report echoes what has been mixed news for a year or so. Staffing firm Hudson this week said its index of information technology workers' confidence in the employment market rose in March amid greater job satisfaction, increased optimism about personal finances and a drop in anticipated layoffs. In addition, the average number of unemployed workers in nine high-tech categories--including computer programmers, database administrators and computer hardware engineers--fell from 210,000 in 2003 to 146,000 in 2004, according to the Labor Department data.

But a wave of mergers in the industry, such as the Oracle-PeopleSoft deal, is resulting in thousands of job cuts. In addition, tech professionals face the possibility of their jobs being sent to a lower-wage nation such as India or China. The automation of technology tasks also is a threat.

Friday's Labor Department report showed a decline in March in another tech-related category of services jobs. The number of management and technical consulting services positions slid by 700 to 791,000.

The Internet publishing and broadcasting industry added 1,000 jobs, bringing this month's total to 35,600, while the number of positions in telecommunications fell by 1,300 to 1.029 million.

Payroll positions held steady at 392,300 in the category of Internet service providers, search portals and data processing.