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Study: Tech-job shortage hits 20 states

A new report finds the tech industry eked out a modest overall increase of 80,000 new jobs last year, far short of the half a million that had been typical for over the last decade.

America's technology industry stagnated last year, ending five years of explosive annual growth, according to a report published Wednesday.

Instead of continuing last decade's pattern of creating up to half a million new jobs a year, tech companies' growth has slowed along with the rest of the U.S. economy, the American Electronics Association said in its sixth annual study.

Unemployment rates for engineers and programmers roughly doubled from 2000 to 2001, and 20 states lost tech jobs, the trade association said.

There was some good news: Gains in communications jobs helped the technology industry eke out a modest overall increase of 80,000 jobs, a 1 percent gain.

"California's high-tech industry was hit hard by last year's economic slowdown but still managed to exhibit some growth in employment," said Joseph Lazzara, co-chairman of AEA's Bay Area Council.

California remained the top tech employer in 2001, with about 1 million jobs, followed in order by Texas, New York and Massachusetts. Washington state claimed only an average number of tech jobs, but they were by far the highest-paid, with an average wage of $118,252.

The AEA put a good face on the numbers, stressing that while last year was admittedly moribund, the tech industry has generated 1.6 million new jobs since 1995. And, the group said, it could have been a lot worse.

"It didn't plummet," said AEA spokeswoman Taryn Lynds. "A lot of people were expecting negative numbers. We ran the statistics and found there was a slight amount of growth rather than a steep decline."

Wednesday's report, based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census Bureau data, comes amid some signs of an economic rebound.

The Gross Domestic Product, the value of all U.S. goods and services, expanded by 5.6 percent in the first quarter of 2002.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged, citing a slow but apparent increase in economic activity.

Much of the growth in tech jobs will come from software and communication services, if the AEA's analysis is any indication. It reported growth of 50,000 jobs in those areas last year.