The decline of computer programming in the USA

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:

There are less computer programming jobs in the USA than there were 20 years ago.

Stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (USA):

1990 Number of Jobs 565,000

2010 Number of Jobs 363,100

2012 Number of Jobs 343,700

There is a tiny subset of the industry that is growing, and we associate these with the startups in San Francisco and New York. But so far these startups have not created enough jobs to offset the jobs lost due to other factors.

This suggests that there must be a vast reservoir or programmers who would like programming jobs, but they can’t work as programmers because the jobs have disappeared.

If the numbers were smaller, you could argue that the loss of jobs was due to inaccuracies in the way Bureau of Labor gathers statistics. But the drop from 565,000 jobs to 343,700 is too large to be a spurious blip.

This is a shrinking industry. Computer programming jobs are tied to manufacturing so as manufacturing leaves the USA, so to do the computer programming jobs. Don’t get caught up in the hype about startups: look at the actual numbers. The government tracks these jobs. The numbers are shrinking.

Especially worth a look:

“In its 1990 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the U.S. Department of Labor was especially bullish: “The need for programmers will increase as businesses, government, schools and scientific organizations seek new applications for computers and improvements to the software already in use [and] further automation . . . will drive the growth of programmer employment.” The report predicted that the greatest demand would be for programmers with four years of college who would earn above-average salaries.

When Labor made these projections in 1990, there were 565,000 computer programmers. With computer usage expanding, the department predicted that “employment of programmers is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2005 . . .”

It didn’t. Employment fluctuated in the years following the report, then settled into a slow downward pattern after 2000. By 2002, the number of programmers had slipped to 499,000. That was down 12 percent–not up–from 1990. Nonetheless, the Labor Department was still optimistic that the field would create jobs–not at the robust rate the agency had predicted, but at least at the same rate as the economy as a whole.

Wrong again. By 2006, with the actual number of programming jobs continuing to decline, even that illusion couldn’t be maintained. With the number of jobs falling to 435,000, or 130,000 fewer than in 1990, Labor finally acknowledged that jobs in computer programming were “expected to decline slowly.” “