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Electrical Engineering Lost 35,000 Jobs Last Year In the US 397

dcblogs writes "Despite an expanding use of electronics in products, the number of people working as electrical engineers in U.S. declined by 10.4% last year. The decline amounted to a loss of 35,000 jobs and increased the unemployment rate for electrical engineers from 3.4% in 2012 to 4.8% last year, an unusually high rate of job losses for this occupation. There are 300,000 people working as electrical engineers, according to U.S. Labor Department data analyzed by the IEEE-USA. In 2002, there were 385,000 electrical engineers in the U.S. Ron Hira, an assistant professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, called the electrical engineering employment trend 'truly disturbing,' and said, 'just like America's manufacturing has been hollowed out by offshoring and globalization, it appears that electrical and electronics engineering is heading that way.'"
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Electrical Engineering Lost 35,000 Jobs Last Year In the US

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  • by artor3 ( 1344997 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:21AM (#45983113)

    According to the BLS report from 2012 [], there were 295k electrical & electronic engineers, and an additional 80k computer hardware engineers, who aren't counted in the total for whatever reason.

    According to the BLS report from 2002 [], there were 272k EEs and an additional 67k computer hardware engineers.

    So that's a total of 375k in 2012 and 339k in 2002. If my math is right, that's a growth rate of 1% per year. The US population growth rate averaged over the last ten years is around 0.9%.

    So what am I missing? Where is TFA getting their startling decline from?

  • by Macman408 ( 1308925 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @03:47AM (#45983431)

    Yeah, there's more too: Last year, there were 335k employed EEs with 3.4% unemployment, so about 347k EEs total. This year, there are 300k employed EEs with 4.8% unemployment, so about 315k EEs total. So by their numbers, sure, jobs declined by 10%, but the people looking for said work declined by 9% as well.

    It's also worth noting that in their linked article from the year before, job numbers were up 25k; so the net from 2011 is a loss of 10k. Also, this variability makes me wonder if their method of counting is subject to a lot of noise, and we should be looking more at long-term average trends rather than year-to-year variability.

  • by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @03:50AM (#45983447)

    Being in a place where we design in the US, I don't see this. An off shore design just won't work except for bits and pieces. Sending your product out overseas to be designed means it will be cloned and copied, and in a lot of industries that is not acceptable at all. As well trying to give your local design requirements to someone who doesn't communicate in your language very well is frustrating. And not all of EE is about design either, there's a lot of hardware testing to be done, environmental testing for outdoor products, safety testing, regulatory testing, RF localization to other countries, signal analysis, and so forth. Some of that can be offshored much more easily than design, and some of that must be done locally.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:01AM (#45984747)

    We also leave the field because we have to eat. I've got 3 patents for neurological interfaces, but the pay for hopping to systems engineering jumped 50% my first day. I slso spent a lot of time cleaning up designs that had been offshored: I don't care if you have a little line on your chart that says "gorund" and "0 volts", when you actually make it out of wire or the thin sheet metal of a circuit board copper, it *will* have voltages on it from the big surface mount capacitor you mounted flat on top of it carrying high frequency power signals. And thee are *reasons* you scatter small capacity ceramic capacitors around your digital circuitry. You *cannot* replace them all with one big capacitor over near the edge of the board, even if it is cheaper.

    Everyone say it with me: "tiny boards with components jammed in do not beat bigger boards with critical parts adjacent for short signal paths, even if they cost less".

  • by turp182 ( 1020263 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:14AM (#45984833) Journal

    Just FYI, but Boeing has decided not to leave Washington state and will be building the 777X near Seattle. []

  • by ebno-10db ( 1459097 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:34AM (#45984983)

    A lot of EE people do programming too, such as DSP signal analysis, since most newer computing grads aren't qualified

    I don't think many CS grads ever did serious DSP work (disclaimer: I'm an EE who also writes DSP code). The techniques and algorithms are what you learn in EE, not CS. Time vs. frequency domain, calculating filter coefficients, z-transforms, phase locked loops, stochastic signals, detection and estimation theory, etc., are all EE subjects. The "CS" part of it is actually very simple. The data structures are arrays and the control structures are loops. Nothing fancy, so a CS education is of limited value.

    Now there's a blurred line with ASICs and FPGAs but those tend to be programmed by EE people more often than CS types.

    Same explanation as above. I don't think I've ever seen a CS person doing FPGA or ASIC design. The fact that VHDL and Verilog look a lot like programming languages is not a big deal. You're designing circuits, not software.

  • by mrhippo3 ( 2747859 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @11:35AM (#45986283)
    Getting a PE license is dependent on working on a firm that still employees a PE. As a PE is expensive, this is becoming increasingly difficult to find. Companies will fire high salaried individuals. Yet another complication is that you have to stay employed at one firm long enough to get the time required to qualify. Frequent job switches (which always happen in engineering) make the goal of getting a PE still more elusive. At one SW firm, I had eight bosses in five years. I have not done the math, but the requirement of having a PE boss/supervisor may have declined to the point where getting a PE is not sustainable.

Computer programs expand so as to fill the core available.