The BLS figures jibe with the most recent projections from staffing firm Robert Half Technology, whose survey of 1,400 U.S. CIOs finds that 89% of them plan to maintain current personnel levels in the first quarter of 2010, while 7% plan to add IT workers and 4% plan to cut them. The net 3 percentage point "increase"--a dodgy statistical estimation, in my view--is up 3 points from last quarter's forecast. While CIOs in the wholesale, retail, and healthcare sectors forecast employment growth above the national average, tech hiring plans look tight at best. The positive numbers amount to little more than rounding errors.
So it's against this backdrop that we circle back to the aforementioned White House jobs summit. The event gathered about 130 CEOs, small-business owners, mayors, academics, nonprofit heads, union leaders, economists, and other well-heeled invitees.
After Obama's introductory remarks, the participants scattered into working groups, each tasked with a theme: rebuilding the nation's infrastructure, promoting entrepreneurship and small business, creating green jobs, encouraging business investment, "strengthening workers and Main Street," and driving exports. After breaking for milk and cookies and a nap, the muckety-mucks reassembled with Obama for dismissal.
If the president is serious about stimulating long-term job creation (as opposed to borrowing trillions of dollars to finance a social agenda, or to pay people to dig ditches and fill them in), he should move quickly on several proposals he laid out on Dec. 8, most notably tax cuts and other incentives to get small businesses investing and hiring. Extend those cuts to large businesses as well. For all the talk of corporate greed and largesse, U.S. companies pay the second highest corporate taxes in the world, giving them an incentive to move more of their operations (and jobs) offshore. Less inspiring are the administration's socially motivated proposals to create jobs "through energy efficiency and clean energy investments," and its tepid commitment to "doing what we need to bring the medium-term deficit under control." The latter sounds like another jobs summit sound bite.
Ultimately, governments don't "create" IT and other jobs without introducing a ton of waste. They do best when they get out of the way of well-meaning companies large and small, when they grease the skids of economic output and trade by keeping taxes down and applying regulation judiciously. They do best when their programs for temporary jobs creation serve immediate national interests like fixing roads and bridges (part of Obama's Dec. 8 recovery plan) and updating other services that only the public sector can provide, or when they invest in the future of the country via grants for research that doesn't just serve special interests. Setting aside trillions of dollars to manipulate how the private sector generates/uses energy, builds cars, lends money, or delivers healthcare is just not a viable long-term government strategy.