OCEAN user group president stresses the importance of acquiring current job skills.
April was not a kind month for Americans. The unemployment rate rose from 8.5 to 8.9 percent in the course of four weeks, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since the recession began in December 2007, some 5.7 million American jobs have been lost. Job losses continued at a sharp rate in April across all major private-sector industries. In one month alone, 611,000 Americans were bumped into unemployment lines.
Reviewing the Bureau's Employment Situation Report of May 8, one has to ask whether the recession isn't still gaining momentum. Job losses are occurring today at a rate faster than they were three months ago. In the United States today, nearly 14 million people are out of work, making do as best they can on unemployment insurance, burning their personal savings, and accepting help from their friends and families.
Today's unemployment figures are truly shocking, yet people seem to be taking the situation in stride because, I suppose, they don't know what else to do and they believe the situation is beyond control. It's also possible they may feel as though they were secretly part of the root cause that created the problem: spending more money than they earned.
If you look at the numbers and the Bureau's report closely, you see that there are vast inequities in the unemployment figures. The government keeps very close tabs on who is working and who is not. One interesting question on page 6 of the report is: "Is the count of unemployed persons limited to just those people receiving unemployment insurance benefits?"
As it turns out, the estimate of unemployment is based on monthly sample surveys of households and not just those people receiving unemployment insurance. Everyone without a job who is actively seeking and available for work is included in the unemployment figures. The survey that the Bureau takes doesn't even ask whether someone is receiving unemployment insurance benefits.
Another interesting question the Bureau addresses, but doesn't actually answer, is whether or not undocumented immigrants are counted in the surveys. "Neither the establishment nor household survey is designed to identify the legal status of workers," the Bureau states. "While it is likely that both surveys include at least some undocumented immigrants, it is not possible to determine how many are counted in either survey. The household survey does include questions about whether respondents were born outside the United States. Data from these questions show that foreign-born workers accounted for 15.6 percent of the labor force in 2008."
If you are an information technology employee and you find that you are still employed but you hear reports that millions of other people have lost their jobs, you probably consider yourself lucky. However, your good fortune may be due to the fact that the recession is slamming the less educated far worse than those who have bachelor's degrees or higher education levels. While the average unemployment rate for the country would appear to be headed toward 10 percent this summer, the rate of unemployment for college graduates was a mere 4.4 percent as of April. I kid you not; of the 45.4 million workers in this category, only 1.97 million were unemployed as of April. Some 43.5 million were going to work every day as if in a protective bubble. It seems the worst fate that many of them have faced is a salary cut or, perhaps, a new position below their station.
The 36.9 million workers who have an associate's degree or some college fared slightly worse than their degreed counterparts. The unemployment rate for these people was 7.4 percent, and 2.7 million who fell into this category were looking for jobs. An equal number of people who had only a high school education but no college were faring slightly worse. The unemployment rate for them stood at 9.3 percent with 3.6 million individuals out of a job and looking for work. That group constitutes about 38.7 million people. The final group of 12 million people in the United States who generally find work in better times without the benefit of a high school diploma have been the hardest hit by the recession. The unemployment rate for this group is a whopping 14.8 percent. This represents only 1.8 million people, however, who now have the time to get their GEDs.
Employment statistics can be sliced and diced across age, gender, and racial lines. Workers 55 years and older have not fared that badly in this recession. The hardest hit have been teens between the ages of 16 and 19 and people in their early 20s. Workers 25 to 34 have taken a hit, and men have been laid off far more often than women, especially in these younger categories.
While the unemployment rate for whites stood at 8 percent in April, it was 19.7 percent for young whites between 16 and 19. That figure jumped to 34.7 percent in that age bracket when black or African Americans were sampled. They had an overall unemployment rate of 15 percent. Hispanic unemployment stood at just under 11 percent on average, but was more than 26 percent for the 16- to 19-year-olds, according to the report. Asians had a relatively low unemployment rate of only 6.6 percent, according to the Bureau.
What does all this mean for the information technology worker? Well, for one thing, you better like your job, because if you don't, you probably will be working there anyway for some time because available openings, while they do exist, are scarcer than hen's teeth. OCEAN user group president Bob Langieri, who is a professional recruiter, calls this "probably the worst job market I have seen in my 35 years in recruiting."
Langieri says that "people with a job have no clue. Those who are laid off can expect their search to last from three months to more than a year. When the jobs do start coming back, RPG by itself will not get an interview. If you cannot speak to knowledge of Web tools to extend RPG or other unique skills, your career in IT could be over."
Langieri and the other OCEAN board members have for years been stressing to members the importance of staying current on their technical skills. The group has dedicated itself to presenting educational programs and seminars that do just that. The OCEAN user group "Catch the Wave" Technical Conference and Vendor Expo for IBM System i and Power Systems--scheduled for Monday, July 20--is divided into several tracks, including application development, new career skills, System i and Power Systems infrastructure, and systems management. The application development track is subdivided into intermediate and advanced RPG and application modernization. The new career skills track is divided into .NET, PHP, Web services, WebSphere, and SOA.
Organizers expect the 200-300 attendees will be learning about e-business Web tools, security and infrastructure, Web modernization, and integration tools. Meanwhile, there will be some 30 solution providers in the vendor expo area. "The vendor expo will provide an excellent opportunity for iSeries vendors to meet the developers and managers that have a voice in the selection of software and utilities," said Langieri in a memo to members. "There will be about 30 vendor exhibitors, and this is the only event of its kind in Southern California." OCEAN user group will use the event to celebrate its 20th anniversary on the eve of the conference with an open house "meet the speakers" reception event on Sunday evening, July 19, from 6:00-7:30 p.m. at the Irvine Hyatt Regency. The OCEAN seminar is fee-based, but the vendor expo is free to the public.
Normally, OCEAN uses the conference revenues to raise money for the user group's speaker fees throughout the rest of the year. This year, the economy and drop in attendance at other unrelated conferences and user group meetings has prompted OCEAN to reduce rates to the day-long event so that individuals should easily be able to afford to attend. Even if employers refuse to sponsor them, current OCEAN members can attend for $120, providing they sign up before June 30, when the rate goes up to $220. Nonmembers may attend at the $220 rate, providing they sign up before June 30, when the price rises to $320. As usual, the conference price includes both breakfast and lunch that Monday at the Irvine Hyatt Regency.
"The OCEAN 'Catch the Wave' technical conference has always been the absolute best educational value for IBM professionals," Langieri says. "We understand that we are in tough economic times, but this is also a critical time to increase your value by upgrading your skills."
Given that some of the industry's top subject-matter experts--including Carol Woodbury, Bob Tipton, Bob Cozzi, Sharon Hoffman, Mike Pavlak, Craig Pelkie, Paul Holm, Doug Mack, Isabel Sato, Scott Klement, and Alison Butterill--will be among the featured speakers at this year's conference, users can hardly get a better educational value for their hard-earned recession dollar. If they can get their employers to give them the day off to drive--or fly--to Irvine, California, and pay for their entry fee, all the better, but if they can't during this time of economic uncertainty, what is preventing attendees from investing in themselves? One has to ask only one question in order to determine whether such an investment is worthwhile: whose career is it, anyway?
To learn more about the conference and to view the full list of session abstracts, click here and then on "Technical Conference" in the left column.