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By Jack Ganssle

Engineering Employment

Published 11/23/2005

A few interesting factoids have come across my desk recently:

September 2005 issue of Today's Engineer (http://www.todaysengineer.org/2005/Sep/pulse.asp): "Between 2003 and the first quarter of this year, unemployment [for electrical engineers] fell along with total employment, which declined from 363,000 in 2003 to 335,000 in March of 2005, almost 8 percent. The only way the number of unemployed engineers and the number of employed engineers can both fall at the same time is if a large number of engineers are simply leaving the profession."

October 24, 2005 Computer World: A Senate panel votes to boost (http://www.computerworld.com/governmenttopics/government/legislation/story/0,10801,105645,00.html) H-1B visa limit by 30,000, to 95,000. The same article also claims there are now 19% fewer computer hardware engineering jobs than a year ago, though a growth in jobs for computer scientists and systems analysts offsets those losses.

November issue of the Communications of the ACM: incoming freshmen in computer science fell by 60% between 2000 and 2004. Making it worse is that 35% to 50% of CS students eventually switch majors to a non-technical field.

November 9, 2005: The California Employment Department (http://sanjose.bizjournals.com/sanjose/stories/2005/11/07/story2.html) estimates that between now and 2012 the need for software engineers will rise by 43%. State universities are meeting to find a way to fulfill this need. DM Review (http://www.dmreview.com/article_sub.cfm?articleID=1015670) predicts that by 2009 30-40% of all US software development will be offshored.

Red Herring, November 14: Citigroup exec David Heenan worries that too many smart foreigners leave the US to return to their home countries, bringing their skills and US education home with them. Currently 40% of MIT grad students are from overseas.

Wall Street Journal, November 21: Since 9-11 the US has restricted immigration so much that there aren't enough smart foreigners coming to this country. Ironically, illegal immigration continues unchecked so the bulk of the workforce coming to the country will work only in menial jobs. Meanwhile, China and India continue to focus on building world-class universities to train the legions of people in those countries anxious for a cut of the offshored middle-class pie.

It appears that hardware design jobs are slowly evaporating as software content of products continues to explode, creating an ever-expanding need for software engineers.

But they're not going to be found here, or so these articles suggest.

What do you think? Are these trends troubling or good news?