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Tech services jobs keep rising

The U.S. economy added another 6,900 jobs in computer systems design and related services in October, but tech manufacturing posts fell again.

Technology services jobs rose again in October, while the number of positions in computer and electronics manufacturing slipped further, the U.S. Department of Labor said Friday.

For the second month in a row, the U.S. economy added 6,900 jobs in computer systems design and related services, to a total of 1.14 million. The news comes on the heels of a study finding that confidence in the job market among information technology workers rose in October.

The Labor Department's employment situation report showed stronger job growth overall, compared to September, with payroll employment increasing by 337,000 to 132 million. Roughly 150,000 new payroll jobs per month are considered necessary just to keep up with the growth of the labor force in the United States. The nation's unemployment rate was essentially unchanged at 5.5 percent, the Labor Department said.

Employment in computer systems design and related services has been growing since April and is up by 36,300 from October 2003. Another technology-related services category added jobs in October as well: Management and technical consulting services employment rose by 2,700 to 798,600, the Labor Department said. Employment in this sector has been rising since June 2003, when it was at 741,600.

Technology services companies have been hiring. BearingPoint, for example, which provides consulting, systems integration and outsourcing services, is looking for software developers in cities such as San Jose, Calif., and Washington, D.C., according to its Web site.

Help-wanted ads in that corner of the tech industry are welcome developments to tech workers, who weathered massive job cuts earlier this decade and face the threat of offshoring--the transfer of high-skilled jobs to lower-wage nations such as India.

A monthly survey by staffing firm Hudson this week showed optimism among IT workers rose in October after dipping in September.

In addition, the unemployment rate for people 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 Labor Department data.

But not all signs indicate that the job market is turning around for techies. For example, the average number of people employed in computer and math occupations during the first three quarters of this year slipped to 3,094,000, 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.

And those in the manufacturing arm of the technology industry did not get a sunny report from the Labor Department on Friday. The number of payroll jobs in the computer and electronic products manufacturing sector slipped 1,300, from September to October, to 1.35 million. Employment in computer and electronic products manufacturing fell in September, as well, after being on the rise since December.