The Great Programmer Shortage Propaganda

Industry estimates of the size of the programmer shortage appear to be based upon a model of Brownian Motion. Here are shortage numbers as reported by various news organizations:

  • ComputerWorld Feburary 26, 1997 The ITAA claims 191,000 IT jobs are unfilled.
  • ComputerWorld June 30, 1997 Dr. Howard Rubin claims there are 200,000 unfilled IS jobs.
  • ComputerWorld July 9, 1997 Jim Barksdale of Technet claims there is a shortage of 300,00 information systems professionals.
  • ComputerWorld December 1, 1997 Dr. Howard Rubin says that IS job openings will reach 350,000 by the end of 1998.
  • ComputerWorld January 9, 1998 The National Software Alliance estimates there will be 137,000 software jobs created annually.
  • ComputerWorld February 2, 1998 The ITAA claims 346,000 computer-related jobs will go unfilled.
  • San Francisco Examiner July 11, 1998 The Meta group says there is a shortage of 400,000 computer programmers and electrical engineers.
  • Testimony of David Dreier August 4, 1998 Congressman Dreier says 95,000 computer jobs will be created each year.
  • Cybase CEO John Chen says 350,000 high tech positions are going unfilled.
  • Dayton Daily News July 11, 1999 NCR says there 400,000 IT job vacancies.
  • Tech Week Jun 28, 1999 Meta Group estimates 400,000 IT vacancies by the end of 1999
  • EE Times August 6, 1999 Sponsors of H-1B legislation say there will be 300,000 IT jobs
  • New York Times November 18, 1999 ITAA claims 350,000 openings for computer professionals.
  • Boston Globe March 10, 2000 Industry groups say there as many as 300,000 unfilled IT jobs.
  • AP April 9, 2000 ITAA claims 843,328 (+/- 3%) IT jobs may be difficult to fill.
  • Chicago Tribune May 28, 200 Industry estimates that some 300,000 to 800,000 IT jobs go unfilled.
  • Michigan Economic Development Corporation Press Release Supporting H-1B May 25, 2000   According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, the U.S. economy will produce 130,000 IT jobs each year.
  • May 6, 2002 ITAA Press Release claims IT workforce size dropped from 10.4M to 9.9M. 600,000 IT jobs will go unfilled.

Taking a look at the TOTAL NUMBER of IT jobs in these articles:

  • June 30, 1997 Dr. Howard Rubin estimates there are  1,200,000 IS jobs in the U.S.
  • February 26, 1997 The ITAA says one out of ten IT jobs are unfilled, meaning there are 1,910,000 IT jobs in the U.S.
  • February 2, 1998 The  ITAA says one out of ten IT jobs are unfilled, meaning there are 3,460,000 IT jobs in the U.S.
  • April 9, 2000 ITAA estimates 10 Million people work in IT jobs.and that number grows by 1.6M a year.

Using the ITAA's numbers, the number of IT jobs grew:
181% from 1997 to 1998 (1.91M to 3.46M)
243% from 1998 to 1999 (3.46M to 8.40M)
19% from  1999 to 2000 (8.40M to 10.0M)

What does the Government Say?

For the same period the Bureau of Labor Statistics Gives for the number of Computer programmers, engineers and scientists:

1997 - 1.862M
1998 - 2.084M (Up 12%)
1999 - 2.234M (Up 7%)
2008 (Projected) - 3,891M (40% of the ITAA's 2000 number) 

Source: An Information Technology Labor Shortage (PDF Format) Prepared by the Congressional Research Service (June 14, 2001)

The Department of Commerce says there is no evidence of a shortage ComputerWorld January 28, 2002

Shortage Stories

Survey shows huge lack of IT workers     ComputerWorld February 26, 1997

Here the ITAA claims a shortage of 191,000.

IS labor drought will last past 2003     ComputerWorld June 30, 1997

Here Dr. Howard Rubin says the shortage is 200,000 and that there are 1,200,000 IT workers in the U.S.

TechNet seeks to lobby Congress and boost U.S. education ComputerWorld July 8, 1997

Jim Barksdale of Technet claims the shortage is 300,000.

Staffing shortage imperils U.S. economy     ComputerWorld December 1, 1997

Dr. Howard Rubin says the shortage is 350,000.

Report calls for more training to alleviate computer worker shortage   ComputerWorld January 9, 1998

National Software Alliance claims 137,000 new computer jobs annually.

Pressure Gap: Transforming the IT workforce ComputerWorld February 2, 1998

Challenging the ITAA's claims of a 346,000 shortage.

A dyed-in-the-wool skeptic Forbes January 1, 1999

High-Tech Education Not Popular    AP April 4, 1999

An AEA report with an interesting method for distorting the results.

Federal researchers see no skills shortage Ottawa Citizen April 24, 1999

Canadian government can't find the programmer shortage industry claims exists there.

Report Indicates Decrease in High-Tech Degrees     New York Times May 5, 1999

Another story on the AEA study

High-tech visas problem not over yet San Jose Mercury News June 25, 1999

Labor shortage is 340,000

Computers and Clout Strong Encryption, More Visas on Agenda     Scripps Howard News Service, July 5, 1999

The shortage is 350,000

Visa rule's effect on 2000 election     San Francisco Examiner July 11, 1999

Meta Group claims a 400,000 shortage

Worldwide workforce    Dayton Daily News July 11, 1999

Here the programmer shortage is 400,000.

A.T. Kearny Study

Industry claims 160,000 open jobs in Silicon Valley must be filled from outside the area or remain open, each vacency costing between   $6-8,000.

Where are the Workers? Teck Week July 28, 1999

ITAA shortage is 346,000 Meta Group says the number is 400,000. Age discrimination. Low pay

Testimony of Congressman David Dreier (R-CA) House Judiciary Committee August 5, 1999

Congressman Dreier says 95,000 computer jobs will be created each year.

House debates H-1B visa cap     ComputerWorld August 5, 1999

Features TRW

High-tech visas back on political agenda     EE Times August 6, 1999

Here there will be IT 300,000 jobs.

Vis-a-visa    Red Herring August 9, 1999

ITAA Claims 346,000 programming openings. Also contains Zoe Lofgren's press secretary's famous quote about $60,000 a year being "peanuts in Silicon Valley".

Need for Computer Experts Is Making Recruiters Frantic     New York Times November 18, 1999

ITAA says there is a 350,000 programmer shortage.

Skill-based Visas Ignite New Debate     The Boston Globe March 10, 2000

Here the programmer shortage is 300,000.

Work force not keeping up with tech job market    AP    April 9, 2000

Here the ITAA claims the programmer shortage to be 843,328 and they measured it within +/- 3%.

Visas For High-Tech Workers Debated     Chicago Tribune May 28, 2000

Here the programmer shortage is between 300,000 and 800,000

Michigan Economic Development Corporation   Press Release May 25, 2000

Claims 130,000 information technology jobs will be created this year.

Senate grapples with high-tech 'labor gap'     Christian Science Monitor, September 22, 2000

A recent Commerce Department study found that the data on labor shortages in the industry didn't support a conclusion either way


Hiring easier in computer technology     The Morning Call, April 8, 2001

It has become an "employer's market" for hiring computer professionals.

Metro incomes increasing even faster than inflation     Denver Post, August 2, 2000

Wage for professional workers are rising in Denver, with the exception that they are DECLINING for programmers. How can this be with a huge programmer shortage?


Nasscom continues to be upbeat on software exports NASSCOM Press Release March 13, 2001

The ITAA claims it supports H-1B to prevent jobs from going overseas. So why is it signing a deal to export more software development to India?

India’s Q3 software exports up 65%     Cyber Nation of India February 6, 20001

Slowdown? What slowdown? Far from being affected by the US slowdown, Indian software exports in Q3 have grown by an impressive 65% to Rs 7,160 crore. Nasscom has projected overall exports of Rs 28,500 crore for fiscal 2000-01.

GOP Eyes boost in Foreign Workers ComputerWorld August 9, 1999

Are raises bad for America?      U.S. News & World Report, August 30, 1999

Intel describes how H-1B is part of a strategy for keeping wages down.

Technical difficulties: Cap on visas to foreign workers has high-tech  companies struggling to fill jobs  Fort Worth Star-Telegram April 16, 2000

High-tech firms ask Congress to up foreign worker limits    San Diego Union Tribue July 4, 1999

Qualcomm claims they can't find people. Also info on the Chenai audit.

Layoffs Persist Despite Labor Crunch      Electronic News November 29, 1999

Tech visas bogged down    San Jose Mercury News July 26, 2000

Engineer shortage called danger to military readiness    EE Times, September 21, 2000

Companies claim they can't find engineers, but only want to pay $35,000 a year for them.

The catch-22 of coveted H-1B visas      MS-NBC, September 24, 2000

"It's [H-1B] an incredible source for bringing in cost-effective labor that we have a shortage for,"

So many IT jobs, so few takers     Chicago Sun, September 28, 2000

"If you're willing to pay market rate, you can find people," said Pete
Georgiadis, founder and CEO of eBlast Ventures, a company that funds
and builds technology firms. "The issue is if you're
budget-constrained, you can't get the people you want."


Easing restrictions on visas doesn't help any high-tech workers      Economic Policy Institute, April 18, 2001

How and Why Government, Universities and Industry Create Domestic Labor Shortages: An Introduction to the Real NSF 'Shortage' Study

Dr. Eric Weinstein recounts how the NSF has suppressed evidence there is no labor shortage.

Employment of Scientists and Engineers Reaches 3.2 Million in 1995 (PDF Format) National Science Founation, August 13, 1998

Not mentioned here is that the NSF's SESAT web page says there were  12 Million people in the U.S. with Science or Engineering degrees in 1995. In other words, only about 1/4 of these people were working in the field.

GAO faults study claiming high-tech workers are scarce     Washington Post March 23, 1998

"The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, also criticized the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), a trade group representing 11,000 employers nationwide, for reports that raised alarms about a "severe shortage" of computer workers based on job vacancies in a sampling of companies. The GAO questioned "the reliability of ITAA's survey findings," saying they were not supported by sufficient data. "

Testimony of John Fraser, Department of Labor     U.S. House April 21, 1998

Industry inflates vacancy statistics, lays off workers while claiming a shortage, fails to tap underrepresented groups.

Stop Wasting Your Workers ComputerWorld June 26, 2000

Barbara Gomolski explains how the IT industry creates its own worker shortage.

Unemployment Rate Is Only 4%, But That's 5.6 Million Jobless    Wall Street Journal July 25, 2000

Immigration reform, yes. More immigrants, no.     Minneapolis Star-Tribune, July 30, 2000

A job crisis? IT all depends      Philadelphia Inquirer, September 20, 2000

People With Non-Technical Degrees

Internet Leaders See Advantages In Non-Technical Degrees    ComputerWorld December 12, 1999


Untitled    Newsbytes August 5, 1999

TRW says 70% of their resumes come from foreigners.

H-1B Hubbub Heats Up    Electronic News     July 10, 2000

Important Quote: Whether there is or is not a shortage (of electrical engineers), the quick answer is that there is no data that overwhelmingly proves there is or there isn't," said Dan Hecker, a Bureau of Labor Statistics labor economist in the office of employment projections.

Foreign Affairs    ComputerWorld, August 28, 2000

"One year ago, I was very apprehensive about my company's ability to
attract and retain talented workers in a small South Carolina town,"
says Steve Wyatt, director of IT corporate services at Sonoco Products
Co. in Hartsville, S.C. "But we re-evaluated and upgraded our
compensation, bonus and training packages. We found we were then able
to attract talent from major metro areas. And I have no job openings
at the moment."