The unemployment rate for March 2005 fell slightly in the United States to 5.2 percent, even though the number of first-time benefit applications rose, and job creation fell far below expectations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also re-adjusted (down) January and February's job creation estimates after previously showing a positive trend.
For the 12 month period ending 1 April 2005, job gains have remained below what is necessary to contribute to overall economic grow, said Steven Wood in a report for Insight Economics.
Officially, 8 million workers are unemployed in the United States, down from 10 million in 2001, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the Labor Department does not continue tracking unemployed citizens once they've "fallen out" of the job seeking pool. The weekly benefit recipients are also not those counted in a separate household survey used to create the unemployment rate. Independent analysts put the actual number of unemployed between 9 million and 15 million across all industries and segments. However, all analysts agree that there are fewer unemployed professionals during the first quarter of 2005 than at any time in the past three years. The growth and recovery of long-term unemployment has failed to meet even the most conservative expectations in the past two years.
Economic surveys meant to take the temperature of consumer sentiment from the Associate Press, Ipsos, and The Conference Board found that consumers have pulled-back their optimism to pre-2004 election rates. Consumer cash and spending was down in March as growing concerns about oil and inflation pinched pocketbooks. Consumers were also concerned about joblessness and job security, despite the Labor Department's lower unemployment rate for the month of March.
Monster.com, a leading job seeker website, reported a dramatic increase in job postings for the month of March compared with March 2004. Monster does not break-down the job postings into industry sectors, and depending upon the type of job (marketing, communications, mobile computing especially) job seekers will find thousands of exact job matches in those categories that are only self-starting positions all of which advertise "unlimited income from your home."
iGillottResearch Inc., of Austin, TX, predicts the mobile workforce will grow by 7 percent during the next five years. Currently, 56.6 million workers are categorized as "mobile," and either travel or work from home during (at least) 20 percent of their work week. By year 2009, iGillott expects the number of mobile workers to expand to nearly 61 million.
The research trend indicates "the opportunity for wireless and mobile solutions across industry sectors and sub-sectors," said Matthew Vartabedian, research manager for iGillottResearch. "Forthcoming reports will segment mobile workers by white-collar/blue-collar categories and estimate enterprise spending on wireless solutions."
Vault research group and online community of 3 million professional workers provide mixed news from the trenches in March. Employees of IBM, EDS, Oracle Inc., Affiliated Computer Services, Unisys, Lucent Technologies, and AT&T all reported the future of their jobs may be in jeopardy, and they question the stability of their employers' growth potential. While employees of Intel, Verizon Inc., Abbot Laboratories, Halliburton Inc., and Apple Inc., felt optimistic about the future of their companies and the direction of their personal careers.
One survey respondent from IBM said about the company, "Stodgy, slow moving, lacking innovation in sales and marketing. Not entrepreneurial. Very metrics-focused. Good at client management, some products are innovative (but) too much management, too much measuring and not enough doing."
The trend for Apple was positive, as one project manager wrote, "Apple has its challenges for market share, and will never compete directly with Dell or IBM. Instead, the focus is on creativity and the Digital Hub. Products such as the iPod are keeping us profitable during the economic downturn. If Apple continues to develop innovative and quality products like the iPod, then the long term picture should be secure."
IDC of Framingham, MA, added some good news for the technology sector, although it too was cautions. Significant IT spending is expected during the upcoming 12 months, IDC said. Executives and business managers polled by the research group said IT spending would expand by 8 percent from April 2005 to March 2006. However, companies seeking IT services and products expect more for their spend, due to higher interest rates and to their own lower profit expectations.
"It's gratifying to have such positive expectations on the part of CIOs and business executives," said John Gantz, IDC's chief research officer. "But we are waiting for the reality of the macroeconomic situation to sink in. Oil prices are expected to remain high, the deficit isn't getting any smaller, nor is the trade imbalance, and interest rates are going up. For multinationals, the European market is still weak. Nor does there seem to be much allowance for the unexpected. Sooner or later these factors will impact corporate willingness to spend."
For April, buyer intent, which reflects market demand for IT products and services, dropped slightly to 1,082 from 1,096 in March. In contrast, the market indicators number, which combines input from economic and IT industry revenue forecasts, rose slightly to 1,070, up from 1,058 in March.
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