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Tech workers got a raise in 2004

Government data shows a rise in earnings for a number of tech professions, another hopeful sign for computer workers.

Computer professionals of different stripes saw their wallets get fatter last year, according to government data.

From 2003 to 2004, the average weekly earnings of employed, full-time software engineers rose 8.8 percent to $1,418, according to statistics from the U.S. Labor Department. Average weekly earnings climbed 6.8 percent to $1,205 for computer scientists and systems analysts, and increased 7.7 percent to $1,194 for network systems and data communications analysts.

Self-employed workers are excluded from this set of Labor Department information, which is based on a monthly survey of households.

Electrical and electronics engineers saw their average weekly earnings increase by a more modest 3.3 percent, to $1,402. That rise amounted to treading water in the overall economy, given that the consumer price index also rose 3.3 percent for the year.

The data on rising earnings comes amid conflicting signals about the job situation for technology professionals in the United States. Reports have documented fewer layoffs for IT workers, and 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 Labor Department statistics.

On the other hand, a new wave of mergers in the technology industry is translating into thousands more job cuts. There's also the threat that work will be sent overseas.

A separate study on pay for U.S. workers painted a different picture from the Labor Department statistics. Salaries for technology professionals in the United States fell 2.6 percent in 2004 to an average of $67,800, according to a study from job board Dice.

In December, the U.S. wing of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers said median income for "electrotechnology and information technology professionals" declined for the first time in 31 years, from $101,000 in 2002 to $99,500 in 2003. The IEEE-USA survey took into account base pay plus any self-employment income, commissions or bonuses. It did not provide data on 2004 income.