Nearly 160,000 fewer Americans call themselves IT professionals today than three years ago. Despite fewer workers within the profession, the IT unemployment rate has nearly doubled since the beginning of the millennium.

According to an analysis by InformationWeek of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data, the number of IT managers has soared since 2000, while the ranks of computer programmers and computer scientists-systems analysts has plummeted.

The IT labor force–those who consider themselves IT professionals, whether employed or unemployed–fell to 3.4 million during the first half of 2004, down from a five-year peak of nearly 3.6 million in 2001. That represents a 4.5% decline in the IT labor force. At the apex, Americans employed in IT approached 3.5 million; this year, that number fell to 3.2 million, a decline of nearly 7% in three years.

IT unemployment, which hovered just below 3% in 2000 and 2001 before businesses felt the full brunt of the dot-com collapse and recession, has stabilized between 5.5% and 6% over the past three years. During the first six months of this year, IT joblessness averaged 5.5%.

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